Fulton County transcends dismal state drug stats

By David J. Coehrs - dcoehrs@aimmediamidwest.com

A nationwide study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta paints a grim portrait of Ohio as the second worst state for opioid drug-induced deaths.

However, there’s a startlingly brighter picture in Fulton County that has been attributed to the cooperation between local help networks.

Released late last year, the CDC study shows Ohio with 39.1 age-adjusted drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2016. That rate was almost twice the overdose rate nationally, at 19.8 deaths per 100,000. It also jumped substantially from the state’s 2015 rate of 29.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Ohio narrowly edged New Hampshire, with 39 drug overdose deaths per 100,000, as the second worst state listed.

The highest recorded rate of overdose deaths was in West Virginia, at 52 per 100,000. Other states with high overdose death statistics included the District of C0lumbia, at 38.8 per 100,000, and Pennsylvania, at 37.9 per 100,000.

The lowest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in the country were observed in Iowa and North Dakota, at 10.6; Texas, a 10.1; South Dakota, at 8.4; and Nebraska, at 6.4.

In 2016, the U.S. recorded over 63,600 drug overdose deaths. The age-adjusted rate was 21 percent higher than in 2015, and three times higher than in 1999. Twenty-two states and the District Columbia had statistically-higher age-adjusted drug overdose death rates than the national average.

The CDC study also found that:

• The highest rates of drug overdose deaths occurred among people in age groups 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54.

• In that age-adjusted drug overdose deaths category, those death involving synthetic opioids except methadone doubled between 2015 and 2016.

• Age-adjusted drug overdose rates were almost double in 2016 for males than for females.

• The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol increased 88 percent between 2013 and 2016.
• The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin jumped by 33 percent per year from 2010-14, then by 19 percent from 2014-16.
• Statistically, the highest drug overdose death rates centered in the Midwest and New England states, but also occurred in several Southwest states.
According to Les McCaslin, CEO of Four County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMhs), the county doesn’t share the dismal results of the state. The county health department recorded only two deaths last year directly attributable to drug overdoses, both from fentanyl. The most deaths from drug overdoses the county suffered in one year was 10, in 2016, which would be a rate of over 20 per 100,000 for that one year.

In Lucas County, the highest number of overdoes deaths occured in 2016 when 157 died for a rate of 36.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.

The U.S. Department of Health reported an average of 17.4 age-adjusted unintentional drug overdose deaths per 100,000 population in the county between 2011 and 2016.“We’ve always been able to put people into detox as soon as they need it. It’s never been a problem,” he said. “The reason (overdose deaths) are so low around here is because the services are available.”

McCaslin said the area is fortunate to have the Bryan Health Center, which manages symptoms on an out-patient basis, and the Crisis Stabilization Unit at Comprehensive Crisis Care in Napoleon. Both treat Fulton County drug abuse cases.
“It’s wonderful to have facilities like this. Clearly, we do have a wonderful set-up,” McCaslin said. “We have the services, we have the people in place, we have a wonderful sheriff that’s on top of things. It truly is the idea of everybody working together.”
But he said fentanyl deaths are not the issue in Fulton County. Methamphetamine has become the top player, and suicides are at an unrelated nine-year high.
Beth Thomas, director of Fulton County Healthy Choices Caring Communities coalition, said the county is fortunate to have strong anti-drug programs in place. They include an HC3 opiate task force that focuses primarily on youth and five drug take-back locations in the county that accept unwanted prescription pills to help prevent misuse.
“It makes a big difference in access,” Thomas said.
Additionally, HC3’s Youth Advisory Council has instituted the #TalkToMe campaign which encourages parents to speak with their children regularly about the harmful effects of drugs. Thomas said youths regard adults as strong role models, and regular discussions with a parent, guardian or trusted adult about drugs can reduce juvenile use by 50 percent.

“Personally, I think it’s never too young to start,” she said.

McCaslin said the low rate of drug overdose deaths in Fulton County doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. He said the county is fortunate to have a strong support system that gives users a fighting chance.

“I’m very proud of what our county has done,” he said.


By David J. Coehrs


Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.