Heroin is killing Montgomery County

Karlyn Kirchens
May 7, 2018 · 3 min read

Ohio has been a core of the heroin and opioid epidemic over the last five years. This epidemic has been seen mostly in the southern counties of the state including; Montgomery, Brown, and Clermont. Out of these three counties, Montgomery had the highest drug overdose rate of 320 deaths in 2016 alone.

The fifth most populated county in Ohio is Montgomery and it also has the highest unintentional drug overdose death rates in the state for the last 5 years. 2017 had the highest rate of overdoses with 566 deaths. 90% of the overdose deaths involved opioids with fentanyl, this has eventually led to the President of the United States declaring the national opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Montgomery County implemented the Community Overdose Action Team (COAT). COAT works to find effective ways to combat the current crisis. They have expanded over 45 programs and services in the year of 2017 to fight the crisis. In the last year, Montgomery County’s deaths per month have lowered by 63 unintentional deaths.

Montgomery County overdose deaths (The Community Overdose Action Team)

The heroin and opioid epidemic reach even farther than Montgomery County. Dr. Keith F. Durkin shares first-hand experiences he has had working with the epidemic and what he has seen. Dr. Durkin has worked for the past decade with the Hardin County Juvenile Drug Court. He has been working with young children who are abusing prescription pain pills and other drugs.

Dr. Durkin has been working to develop an opioid epidemic plan for Hardin County. “One of the final sorts of tipping points of the whole thing was one of the first kids that was using pain pills in the juvenile court, she died of a heroin overdose with fentanyl. She left behind a baby and everything. She was 18 or 19-years-old.”

Dr. Durkin explained, “She was 14 or 15 when we first found out she was taking pain pills to get high. Then when she graduated from the program she decided to move to Fort Wayne and died of an overdose.” This painful memory pushes Dr. Durkin to help Hardin County fight against these issues early with a plan.

“90% of the people who use heroin, use pain pills first.” — Dr. Keith F. Durkin

He wants to find a way to get in front of the heroin epidemic by treating the earlier generation for pain pill addiction. “95% of the children using the prescription pain pills have symptoms of a serious mental illness. They are likely self-medicating.” Dr. Durkin suggests that courts begin to screen for mental health and substance abuse at the same time.

The main focus for Montgomery County is their preventive measures to stop misuse from starting and try and intervene early in those who have started misuse. COAT has started a program with Wright State University that provides curriculum for grades K-12. This curriculum is the Heroin and Opioid Abuse Prevention Education (HOPE) that helps educated students on the necessary skills to prevent drug abuse.

Hope over Heroin event in 2016 (Dayton Daily News)

Outside of schools, COAT has trained over 400 people in Generation Rx, medication safety training, and over 40 people have become trainers for these programs. This is helping raise social awareness while having more community members able to help in an emergency situation.

RANGE task forces in the past year have worked to decrease the supply of the illegal opioids on the streets. There have been 123 suspects arrested, 63 collected firearms, and $8,865,050 worth of illegal drugs seized in the area.

These methods of education and control are what is going to fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic. Montgomery County’s 2018 goal is to increase Narcan distribution to help prevent overdose deaths. This goal will help the county at large as they work towards lowering the counties status in the epidemic.