Hamilton County coroner releases 'scary' 2017 overdose numbers

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco released 2017 drug statistics Tuesday.

Last fall, the coroner said overdoses in Hamilton County had surpassed the total of last year, with 427 suspected deaths – and three months remaining in 2017, making the toll the worst since the heroin epidemic began. in the Tri-State.

Most overdose deaths have been due to fentanyl or chemically similar drugs, Sammarco said.

The county reported 403 overdose deaths in 2016 - up 30 percent, overdose deaths were totaled at 529 for 2017.

Sammarco described the increasing number of cases as "scary."

She said drug prevention efforts can only do so much without the help of the public.

"We can't do this alone. Everybody here is busting their butt to try to get a handle on not just the supply, but to get help for the addicts and families. But we need the communities to step up, we need every neighborhood to keep an eye on heir neighborhood. To try and help us get the dealers off the street, to try and get help to the addicts. You see something, say something."

Sammarco noted the death toll was reduced by Narcan.

"The number of lives being saved is huge," she said. "There's no doubt they would've been double or triple what they were without Narcan."

The coroner said 30,000 items were turned into the office's drug section in 2017. Hfour drug analysts each processed well over 7,000 items, which 2.5 times higher than any other lab in Ohio.

Prevention First, a local non-profit aimed at reducing substance abuse released their findings from this year's student drug-use survey.

They said of the more than 30,000 students grades 7 through 12 surveyed, nearly 14 percent have admitted to using alcohol in the past 30 days.

Tobacco use was only reported in five percent of students.Marijuana usage was slightly higher at more than eight percent.

Prescription drug abuse was reported in only 2.4 percent of students.

Commissioners said aside from marijuana use, the statistics have been trending downward since 2000.

"Hats off to Prevention First for leading the charge on that and for providing all of this really important information when it comes to prevention and what young people are doing in this community because this is the tip of the spear," Commissioner Denise Driehaus said.

The survey, which is given every two years by Prevention First, was distributed to 80 public and private schools in six southwest Ohio counties.

To try to top overdoses before they happen, the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition is launching a Quick Response Teams early next month, on April 3.

The coalition is uniting with fire departments, law enforcement and social workers to create a team that follows up with overdose victims and offers them same-day addiction treatment. according to a prepared statement.

Modeled on an effort in Colerain Twp., the team will try to find overdose survivors using a database maintained by the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center, a public safety data collecting agency.

Heroin Coalition commander and Norwood Police Lt. Tom Fallon told Hamilton County commissioners Monday the database would help locate overdose survivors who are otherwise hard to find.

The team will also use "predictive analysis" to track drug activity to target potential overdoses in with the help of University of Cincinnati's Institute of Crime Science.

The effort is funded by a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice funded through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

If you know someone suffering from addiction, there are several local resources designed to help:

Addiction Services Council
Local: (513) 281-7880
Kentucky: (859) 415-9280

Mental Health Hotline
(513) 281-CARE

Drug & Poison Information Center (DPIC)
(513) 636-5111

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