Ohio opioid overdose deaths surged during the second quarter of 2020, making it the deadliest three-month period since the opioid epidemic began, according to a new state study.
The death rate from opioid overdoses increased to 11.01 per 100,000 people during the second quarter of 2020. Previously, the highest rate was 10.87 overdoses per 100,000 reported in the first quarter of 2017, according to a study by a task force created by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
“Opioid overdoses might have taken a backseat in our minds last year because of COVID-19, but make no mistake: Ohioans are dying at a devastating rate because of opioid overdoses,” Yost said.
The jump in opioid overdose deaths, which began in April, came after the stay-at-home order and the spike hit after the state had seen a drop in the death rate, which had fallen to six to eight deaths over the last two years.
Anita Kitchen, executive director with Families of Addicts, said “the month of April was absolutely crazy for us because so many people didn’t know what to do with their loved ones.”
The jail had been releasing some people to lower the population but at the same time recovery homes were cutting back on capacity and some services were in flux or shifting to online as the pandemic struck and social distancing measures kicked in. The Dayton-based nonprofit hired a member who was out of a job to pick up people getting released from jail who were in detox but not in recovery and at risk when they were released.
“If we need to be going to a treatment center out of state, that’s what we were doing. You just do what you need to do to help people,” she said.
Kitchen said in March and April, so many people were contacting the organization who weren’t sure what to do to help their loved ones, as everyone in all the different organizations and in government were scrambling to figure the situation out the best they could.
“If they couldn’t get treatment, or somebody didn’t reach out to get treatment for them, their bodies don’t handle their drug of choice at the same dosage when they have detoxed. So, they would go back on the streets, they would use how they were prior to going in jail. They overdosed and died,” Kitchen said.
The county with the highest overdose rate was Scioto County with 35.22 deaths per 100,000 people. Clark (16.63 deaths per 100,000 people) and Montgomery (16.07 deaths per 100,000 people) counties had the eighth and ninth highest rates.
Kitchen said people working on recovery need support and accountability and help they weren’t getting when secluded in the pandemic.
“When you have addiction issues, oftentimes those are aligned with mental health issues, and being alone is not a healthy thing. Also, if you end up using drugs, you’re alone, and if you overdose alone you are probably going to die,” she said.
How to get help
Anyone struggling with substance abuse addiction or who knows someone who needs help can call the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ toll-free help line at 877-275-6364, text 4hope to 741741 or visit www.recoveryisbeautiful.org.
To reach the Crisis Text Line, text the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor within 5 minutes.