The pandemic has impacted overdose deaths as people seek treatment in Clark and Champaign counties

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According to interim drug overdose death statistics from the CDC, the number of deaths between March 2020 and 2021 increased by more than 30% in the United States compared to March 2019-20. In Ohio, CDC statistics show a 26% increase in overdose deaths.

Officials said the reasons for the nationwide increases could be linked to the additional stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulty obtaining rehabilitation services during closures and social distancing requirements.

McKinley Hall CEO Wendy Doolittle said the pandemic has had multiple impacts on patients at the Springfield-based rehabilitation center. For some patients, the barrier of isolation was difficult to overcome. Many 12-step programs were put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, and people seeking a network of support through programming that has pivoted to digital platforms had not the engagement one can get from face-to-face interactions, she said.

Doolittle also said the pandemic had an impact on the rehabilitation center’s access to a particularly vulnerable population: people coming out of prison. McKinley Hall employees are reportedly traveling to Clark County Jail to teach at-risk inmates how to use naloxone, also known as Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The deputies would then place Narcan kits among the personal effects of inmates leaving prison after having served their sentence.

“When we think of preventing overdose deaths, we think of harm reduction in general,” Doolittle said.

In addition, an unintended result of the stimulus money has been an increase in the number of patients leaving the rehabilitation center’s residential program against a doctor’s advice, Doolittle said.

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“I think we’ve seen a lot of lives leave Clark County, leave the earth, as a result of this stimulus money being mismanaged by someone with substance use disorders,” he said. she declared.

The CEO said several patients who were in the early stages of their recovery, starting to gain stability, quit programming after their stimulus payment entered.

“They were leaving the program… and we had a few people who died shortly thereafter,” she said. “A lot of people go out of normal life and are able to manage their resources, but so early in recovery it’s a trigger to have that kind of money in your bank account. We have certainly seen the negative consequences of this, for a lot of people. “

What works?

In 2017, Montgomery County reported over 500 accidental overdose deaths, while Clark reported 96 and Champaign reported 17. National and international news teams came to the Dayton area to report what was happening. was happening, said Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, a nonprofit that tracks overdose statistics statewide. Those responsible were forced to mobilize to bring it under control.

In 2019, 266 deaths were reported in Montgomery County, with accidental overdose deaths reaching 309 in 2020 during the pandemic.

“The decline is probably related to a very aggressive and fairly well organized effort to distribute naloxone, to expand syringe programs, to come into contact with people in active use who may die,” Cauchon said.

In Clark County, the total number of unintentional overdose deaths has remained about the same, with 56 deaths reported in 2019 and 55 deaths reported in 2020, according to state data. In Champaign County, deaths have doubled locally, from eight in 2019 to 16 in 2020.

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Doolittle said Narcan’s distribution is a major component of McKinley Hall’s awareness programs and prevention efforts, with kits scattered at community events and distributed through the company’s Get Recovery Options Working (GROW) program. Partners of Prevention coalition, a partnership between community organizations and government offices to address substance use in Clark County.

GROW involves prevention coordinators who go door-to-door in at-risk neighborhoods to provide residents with information kits on substance use disorders and to provide training on the Narcan kit.

The rehabilitation center has also partnered with community organizations like Secondhand Harvest to coordinate needle exchange programs, which remove thousands of contaminated needles from circulation each month, Doolittle said. These needle exchanges take place alongside food distributions, COVID-19 vaccinations and STD tests.

“The goal is to remove barriers so that people have the opportunity to recover and stay healthy and not start using the substance again,” Doolittle said, “but for those who don’t. haven’t got to this point, let’s see how it can be done in the safest way possible where it doesn’t harm the community as a whole.

Still work to do

Data kept by the Ohio Department of Health and local health districts have different overdose death totals because they are not calculated the same way. Local health districts count all overdose deaths that have occurred in their counties, while the state only counts county residents, officials said. Additionally, coroners statewide have several months to report their final totals, so all data should be considered preliminary.

As of December 1, the Ohio Department of Health reports that Clark County has recorded 63 deaths while the Clark County Combined Health District reports 67. Champaign County figures reflect state figures , with eight deaths reported this year.

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Carey McKee, who works as a prevention coordinator and McKinley Hall and coordinator of the Partners of Prevention coalition, said education is crucial in terms of prevention.

The rehabilitation center worked on evidence-based education for young people about substance use, with an emphasis on vaping, which McKee said was the “primary substance of choice.” Another campaign will also focus on underage alcohol sales, working with retailers to train employees and put up signage.

McKee said 90% of people with substance abuse disorders who use McKinley Hall for services started using substances before the age of 18.

“You have to build in good prevention programs and messages about the harmful effects of substance use,” Doolittle said. “Go to the source and start teaching young people from the start. “


In numbers :

67: Unintended overdose deaths reported in Clark County this year

8: Unintentional overdose deaths reported in Champaign County this year

12: Clark County’s ranking in overdose deaths per 100,000 population this year

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