Addiction services helped decrease overdose deaths in Hamilton County in 2021
A mass of addiction services helped decrease overdose deaths in Hamilton County to about 454 last year. That's the lowest rate since 2017, when the county saw a peak of 570 overdose deaths.
A new influx of cash from a recent national opiate settlement will boost those services.
According to the Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition (HC ARC), Ohio will get payouts of more than $800 million over 18 years. Locally, Hamilton County will create a regional foundation to determine how to use the estimated $36 million it's expected to directly receive.
The money from the settlement is allocated for addiction treatment, prevention, education, and safety, areas the HC ARC is already addressing.
In its State of the Addiction Crisis Annual Report Friday, the coalition highlighted data from several of its programs which show addiction services are helping people in the community.
Coalition chair Denise Driehaus said, "What you can see here is kind of a leveling off. Now, we are talking about people's lives here. And so, I don't want to lose the idea that while the trend is leveling and stable, we are losing hundreds of people in this community every year to addiction. And so I do want to emphasize that because while we are doing better than some others, we are not in a position where we are celebrating because we're still losing folks. And we're all trying to do more work to save those lives."
For instance, the county-wide Quick Response Team became a full-time program that continues its work to help people find a treatment plan after an overdose. It also began proactively doing outreach efforts in "hot spot communities" like Price Hill.
The QRT helped 70 people in the Price Hill area from September 2021 through February 2022 where it distributed Narcan, hygiene kits, fentanyl test strips, education materials, and referrals to recovery services.
The report says, "From April 2018 through August 2021, the QRT received a total of 946 inbound referrals. More than half, 58% (or 549 individuals), successfully contacted by the QRT have been referred or connected to recovery support services. Of those, 66% (or 362 individuals) successfully accessed and engaged in services, as evidenced by billing records from the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board."
QRT services are available at the Price Hill Library, Rapid Run Park, Lords Gym, Weightless Anchors, Bloc Ministries, and the Hamilton County Public Health Community Linking Station on Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
While the QRT expanded its services, the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board's two-year funding from the Ohio State Opioid Response program came to an end.
It also received $3,185,980 worth of funding and a $300,596 grant from The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) to treat people with alcohol use/misuse disorder and a $150,000 grant from the Office of Criminal Justice services to provide a jail-based substance abuse program, which focuses on peer-recovery during reentry.
Harm reduction, in general, saw a huge boost during the past year.
Assistant Health Commissioner Jennifer Mooney says harm reduction's multidisciplinary approach is housing, jobs, and food accessibility expanded last year.
"Over the past year, really the goals to save lives and keep communities healthy have led to extremely, extremely massive growth in our harm reduction efforts," she said. "To put it frankly, harm reduction is a principle, it's a philosophy. Harm Reduction basically means we're putting forth practical strategies every day to reduce and mitigate the negative effects of drug use."
That includes offering fentanyl test strips, Narcan, referrals, and safe injection equipment.
But it also includes efforts to reduce the the taboo around addiction.
"So this has led to an additional focus on reducing stigma and addressing access barriers," she said.
Law Enforcement Efforts
The Hamilton County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program also played a role in getting people connected to services. The program offers alternatives to jail by diverting low-level criminal offenses to case managers. It's been operating as a pilot program for about 20 months.
As of last month, 93 people have been referred to LEAD. HC ARC says of those referrals, "72% successfully completed an intake assessment. Of the participants who completed an intake assessment, 76% are receiving ongoing case management services, 24% decided to withdrawal from services voluntarily, and 5% successfully completed case management services."
Meanwhile, the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force investigated 212 cases last year, a 15% increase from 2020. In 2021, its members confiscated 169.04g fentanyl, 85.7g cocaine, 75.8g heroin, 130.2g methamphetamine, and 188 Tablets M-30 counterfeit pills.