Growth Report 2019

Overdose Deaths Drop in Trumbull County

WARREN, Ohio – For the first time in six years, Trumbull County saw a decline in 2018 in the number of unintentional overdose deaths.

The Trumbull County Coroner’s office reports that as of Dec. 31, there were 65 confirmed overdose deaths last year with 11 deaths pending toxicology screens. In 2017, there were a record 135 confirmed overdose deaths.

“It appears we will have a total of 76 unintentional overdose deaths in 2018,” says April Caraway, executive director of Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board. “Trumbull County, while mid-sized, has experienced the opiate crisis like the largest cities in other counties. When they had a surge of overdoses due to increased fentanyl on the streets, we experienced it too.”

One of the largest factors in the reduction of overdose deaths is the successful collaboration between county agencies through the newly formed Overdose Death Review Committee.

The committee is composed of representatives from the Trumbull Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Trumbull Combined Health District, coroner’s office, law enforcement, child welfare, treatment agencies and area hospitals. The committee meets monthly to review Trumbull County’s action plan.

“The plan lists all of the Trumbull County initiatives we’ve undertaken to reduce the number of residents dying from a drug overdose. More people with substance use disorders accessed treatment last year than ever before in our history,” Caraway says.

Opiate abuse was the second-highest reason for treatment last year, behind depression and ahead of anxiety, she adds.

More local treatment agencies have walk-in hours, so people don’t need to wait for help when they are ready for it. As a result, people get into detox within 24 hours.

The Trumbull Mental Health and Recovery Board directs other initiatives such as providing prevention services in schools through partner agencies that stop kids from using pain medications and teach them about their addictive properties. Among these is the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, or ASAP, coalition. The group works with the sheriff’s office, the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force and the Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste Management District to increase options for people to dispose of their prescription drugs.

“More than 60% percent of kids report getting prescription medications from family, friends or a neighbor. Reducing youth access to these medications is one of our biggest lines of defense in preventing substance abuse,” says Lauren Thorp, director of recovery and youth programs at the Trumbull Mental Health Board.

The county has also provided greater access to Naloxone through the Combined Health District’s Project Dawn program, which provides free kits to families. All police departments in Trumbull County now carry Naloxone, as do the Warren City Fire Department and ambulance companies.

There are many partners, programs and initiatives that are working together to reduce drug overdoses, Caraway says.

They include agencies and stakeholders coming together to reduce overprescribing and increase interdiction efforts, as well as to advocate for more federal and state funding for treatment and drug courts. She also credits local media campaigns that reduce stigma and educate the public, and more recovery housing that the county mental health board supports financially.

“We know that trauma, mental health issues, hereditary and environmental factors can all lead to addiction. We are working with our partners across the spectrum to impact these issues and get people the help they need,” Caraway says. “So far, we have seen success and we will continue to work together to prevent more tragic deaths.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.