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County on pace to break overdose death mark

57 fatalities posted through June 28, one more than record-setting 2017

WARREN — It appears Trumbull County is on track to surpass a record set in 2017 for the most fatal overdoses in the county in one year.

In 2017, 56 deaths were recorded by June 28.

Through June 28 this year, 57 fatal overdoses were logged, but 10 more from that time period still are pending and expected to be added to the total count, county Coroner Dr. Lawrence D’Amico said.

If the 10 other cases are confirmed — and D’Amico said he believes there is a 90 to 100 percent chance they will be because urinalysis showed the cases are likely overdose deaths — the county will have logged 67 deaths during the time period. The office is awaiting blood toxicology results before affirming the deaths were the result of fatal overdoses.

“That is a 20 percent increase above the 2017 record,” D’Amico said.

That puts the county on track “by a large margin” for a record-breaking year of fatal overdoses, he said.

“Trumbull County is still in the Top 10 counties experiencing overdoses,” April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said. “In fact, 24 of Ohio’s 88 counties make up 80 percent of the state’s overdoses. We are still about the seventh highest out of 88 counties for overdose deaths.”

Caraway and D’Amico agree fentanyl and variations of it, often mixed with other drugs like cocaine, are the major culprits.

“The trend continues to be fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives,” D’Amico said. “There are a few cases of designer drugs, new mixes they are trying to avoid detection.”

The deaths are primarily in people aged 20 to 50, meaning underlying medical issues are rarely a factor, D’Amico said.

“But the amount of fentanyl in the drugs they are taking is so inconsistent it is very easy to take too much,” he said.

There were recent reports of “bad batches” of drugs in the area, causing overdoses that weren’t necessarily fatal, D’Amico said.

The best thing a user can do to avoid death is to find help for substance-use disorders, D’Amico and Caraway said.

Caraway said the pandemic also has affected users who might have been trying to kick a habit, but options still are out there for help.

“Isolation, anxiety and grief issues caused by COVID-19 have greatly contributed to relapses and overdoses. Although in person and telehealth supports are widely available across the Valley, stigma and fear continue to keep people from getting the help they need,” Caraway said. “The message every family with a loved one struggling with an addiction should give is, ‘We love you, we know that addiction is a disease and we know that you can recover. We will support you and do this together.'”

Caraway said she strongly encourages families and friends to sign up for the free online Encompass training that will take place Monday.

The training from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is open to all adults who want to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of addiction, how to help an individual in need of support, the effects of stigma on individuals and families, and self-care and healthy boundaries. Registration is live and can be made at www.addictionpolicy.org/post/trumbull-county-encompass-training.

Doses of naloxone, also known as Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, are available for free to anyone who wants to have it on hand. People can call the mental health and recovery board at 330-675-2765, or stop by to get a free kit.

July saw the most overdoses in the county since the beginning of the year, with 23 percent of all 304 fatal and nonfatal overdoses this year occurring that month, according to epidemiological data.

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