Ohio to track overdose deaths as numbers continue to climb

COLUMBUS — Accidental drug overdose deaths in Ohio reached a record amount in 2021 when more than 5,200 Ohioans died.

That’s one of the reasons why Ohio recently launched new data dashboards to track overdose deaths and other substance-use measures for all of the state’s 88 counties. Through these statewide dashboards, the state wants to give communities timely data on trends happening with overdose deaths, along with what intervention strategies work on the local level.

These dashboards were adopted and expanded from dashboards created through the National Institutes of Health-funded HEALing Communities Study, in which researchers sought to understand the most effective strategies for addressing the opioid crisis, as well as to reach those most vulnerable.

Researchers created data dashboards for 18 counties in Ohio, and the state, along with RecoveryOhio, has expanded that dashboard to all 88 counties.

“Expanding the HEALing Communities Study dashboards to all 88 Ohio counties provides invaluable data that will allow local organizations and communities to better plan for their needs as they battle this public health crisis in our state — and ultimately save lives,” said Gov. Mike DeWine.

A total of 5,021 people in Ohio died from unintentional drug overdoses in 2020, which was a 22% increase over the previous year, according to the state’s new dashboard. This was also a slight increase of 1.3% over 2017, previously the worst year in overdose deaths. Figures for 2022 are not yet available.

Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County has been tracking overdose deaths on a regular basis with information from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office since 2010. Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health, said overdose deaths were still tracked prior to 2010, but it was done on an annual basis at the end of the year.

In 2017, tracking of overdose deaths continued under the Montgomery County Community Overdose Action Team.

“It was enhanced,” Suffoletto said, explaining the Community Overdose Action Team was able to show more immediate trends. There were 319 accidental overdose deaths in Montgomery County in 2022, according to preliminary data from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. That is a decrease of 5.3%, down from 337 overdose deaths in 2021.

Smaller departments in rural counties may not have had the ability to track overdose deaths as quickly, but this statewide dashboard can offer all counties a look at more timely trends in deaths and what interventions may help.

“It’s a benefit to have everyone working together and being able to get a statewide view of where we’re at,” Suffoletto said.

The Clark County Combined Health District is part of an Overdose Fatality Review Board that meets regularly to review overdose deaths in Clark County. The figures for 2022 are still being compiled, but there were 79 drug-related deaths in 2021 reviewed by the Clark County Drug Death Review Committee, a 51.9% increase from 52 in 2020.

The Butler County Health District also tracks the county’s overdose deaths from information from the Butler County Coroner’s Office. In 2021, there were 171 fatal overdose deaths reported in the county, which was down slightly from 177 overdose deaths in 2020. In 2021, Butler County averaged approximately 14 fatal overdoses reported per month. The report on 2022 is set to be available in the fall.

In Warren County in 2021, there were 48 accidental overdose deaths, and in 2022, there were 30 accidental overdose deaths, according to the Warren County Health District.

“The dashboards allow us to use real-time research to focus prevention, treatment, and recovery programs across the state in a transparent platform available to the public,” said Aimee Shadwick, director of RecoveryOhio. “Eventually, we will expand these databases to not only include data on opioid use disorders but all substance use disorders.”

The dashboards report on 55 opioid-related measures including overdose deaths, high-risk prescribing, overdoses treated in emergency departments, naloxone units distributed by Project DAWN, individuals receiving and being continuously enrolled in treatment, and EMS events involving naloxone administration.

The dashboards can be found by visiting the data sets on data.ohio.gov.