LIMA — Ohio’s opioid crisis varies greatly by region.
While Ohio reported fewer unintentional overdose fatalities in 2018, signaling a possible breakthrough in the crisis, a third of the 3,764 deaths reported were concentrated in three counties: Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton.
The Ohio Department of Health released a report this week tracking overdose fatalities in urban and rural areas, highlighting the places and populations hardest hit by the crisis.
Among the findings: small metropolitan counties like Allen, Belmont, Clark, Jefferson and Richland witnessed the highest overdose fatality rate — 42.1 deaths per 100,000 population — even though a majority of the overdose fatalities were concentrated in the state’s largest urban counties.
While white men were the most likely to die from a drug overdose, the report found that black men died of overdoses at higher rates than white men in small metro counties. And the age cohort with the most overdose fatalities that year fell between 35 and 44 years old.
Still, Allen County had a much lower overdose fatality rate than fellow small metros: In 2018, there were 22.6 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in Allen County. By contrast, Clark County reported 51.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 population, the most of any small metro county that year.
Ohio’s small metropolitan counties make up just 4.2% of the state’s population, but 4.9% of the overdose fatalities reported in 2018 occurred in those five counties, according to the Ohio Department of Health report.
The prevalence of naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, has been credited with helping reduce overdose fatalities.
But the crisis is far from over: Kevin Risner, an emergency response coordinator with the Kenton Hardin Health Department, said that county has seen an increase in suspected overdose fatalities since 2018, which he believes may be related to fentanyl.
While fentanyl-related deaths in Ohio peaked in 2017, the drug was still tied to a majority of overdose deaths reported in 2018, according to Ohio Department of Health data.
And Risner said reports of emergency department visits have remained steady for several years, suggesting that people are continuing to use substances even as mortality rates fall.
“We know that there are people who are not fond of naloxone being available, with the idea being that we’re enabling people,” Risner said. “Although we know the data shows that people who are more likely to use naloxone are also people who are more likely to seek treatment. Keeping people alive is a good thing.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.