A Growing Issue in the State of Ohio

Cleveland is one of the major cities in the state of Ohio working to combat the opioid epidemic. (photo/Jordan Adkins)

The past ten years have brought light to a hidden issue in the United States. Over 33,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2015. Ohio is one of the top states to have a significant number of opioid overdose deaths. From 2014 to 2015 the state of Ohio had a 21.1 percent increase in opiate deaths. In the years that followed, the state of Ohio has been working to reduce the number of overdoses.

Figure 1 is a chart representing the climb in deaths caused by opioid overdoses. (figure/Devan Bianco)

The dawn of the new year did not bring much change to the numbers. Ohio’s overdose deaths rose by 39 percent. The major cities in Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo, all had the highest number of overdoses throughout the state. The need for change was apparent, but action was to little to late.

When the opioid crisis became an epidemic, many cities worked to ensure that part of the city budget would go towards combating opioids. Since 2010 Columbus, Ohio is the only city have steadily increased their health budget. Other cities have had a fluctuated budget over the last seven years, along with an increase in opiate overdose cases.

In March 2018, Dayton, Ohio was declared the top deadliest city in the United States for drug overdoses. The city saw an increase of 21.5 percent of opioid-related deaths last year. Dayton, Ohio is working to create programs that can combat the epidemic. Like most cities in Ohio, many talks have turned to hospitals. The Dayton City government is working with their local hospitals about how to use other pain medications. The Ohio Government has also been working with hospitals to conduct research about the work being done to combat the epidemic.

“In Lima, those who are addicted we put on pain protocol, which means that no opioids will be given to a person with this in their name. People do some crazy things to harm themselves for pain meds and unfortunately our policy states that no hard meds, only tylenol and ibuprofen. I think another thing is how we are cracking down on what meds we do give. You have to really have something bad happening to get an opioid. However, I think that while trying to prevent the crisis, we’re going to cause more pain to those who truly hurt,” said Kaitlin Kearns, a nursing student from Dayton, Ohio who works in a Lima Healthcare facility.

Cleveland, Ohio is one of the cities in the state of Ohio with the most opioid-related deaths. In 2016, the city created a program to help combat the opioid epidemic. The Division of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) worked with Project Dawn to give out Project Dawn Kits to the public. Those who received these kits were seen as at risk opioid users. Each kit contains naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opioids. Halfway through 2016 over 130 kits were used and 20 lives were saved from them.

Those in Cleveland know of the epidemic and the toll it has taken on the community. Jordan Adkins is a member of the Cleveland community. She grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and didn’t think much about the crisis. It wasn’t until the epidemic hit home that the issue became real.

“One of my old friends from high school, whom I swam with, died from an overdose last year. When someone you know personally affected it definitely hits home and you begin to realize this is an actual crisis and that many families and friends are losing loved ones too. We hear about the opioid crisis all the time but until you are personally touched by it, be it through a friend or family member, do you really realize the effect it has,” said Jordan Adkins.

With any issue, there are always differing opinions on how the city should handle a crisis. This epidemic is no different. Some citizens believe that the city’s collaboration between the Emergency Medical Service and Project Dawn. Others, like Adkins, believe that the city is not doing enough to combat the epidemic.

“I believe it needs to be brought up more in school. People need to know how to seek help. I learned that in some places you can get the drug (naloxone) for free from your local drug store that will revive someone from overdosing. But I also believe that the opioid issue is very controversial, and someone shouldn’t receive it more than once because I believe it leads to people thinking it’s okay to overdose.”

The opiate epidemic is a growing crisis in today’s society. The state of Ohio is working hard to combat the epidemic, but the issue was that the epidemic has over a twenty-year head start. The next few years will make an impact on societies future. With the help of local healthcare facilities, school/city programs and collaborations the state has a chance to combat, and ultimately defeat, the opiate epidemic.