Montgomery County Ohio has seen a radical change in the last year. Dayton, OH, the Montgomery County seat, once had the highest opioid overdose rate in Ohio and one of the highest nationwide. Last year at this time the county's overdose death toll was a staggering 548. At this point in 2018 there have been a total of 258 overdose deaths reported. That is a 53% decrease from last year at the same time. What life saving lessons can we learn from the city of Dayton?
THE FOUNDATION: HEALTH CARE
In 2015, Ohio Governor, John Kasich made the decision to expand Medicaid services. This decision brought free addiction and mental health treatment to nearly 700,000 low-income adults. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of treatment providers in Dayton in the last year. City leadership credits Gov. Kasich's Medicaid expansion with being the basis for the sharp decline in opioid deaths in the last year.
BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION
Community Programs -
Dayton's East End Community Services hosts a bi-monthly event called Conversations for Change. This program gives those in the community who are struggling with substance abuse an opportunity to connect with health care providers and other social service agencies in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
Supportive Law Enforcement -
In addition to community programs, city officials are blanketing community agencies with naloxone; a medication that, when administered quickly, will reverse an opioid overdose. Richard Biehl, Dayton's chief of police, ordered all of his officers to carry naloxone while on duty. The law enforcement community and medical community in Dayton has joined together to form the Community Overdose Action Team. This organization serves to save as many lives as possible through shared data and the cooperation of dozens of local organizations.
The Right Tools -
The city has invested in higher doses of naloxone in order to combat the introduction of carfentanilinto the city's drug supply. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. The potency of this drug makes an overdose more difficult to reverse with a standard dose of naloxone.
Peer Support –
The city is investing in training those who are at a point in their own recovery that they can successfully act as coaches and mentors to those who are still actively in their addiction. A local organization comprised of social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement and individuals in recovery works in home with those who have recently overdosed. Getting Recovery Options Working, or G.R.O.W, team members discuss the treatment options available, offer to take them to treatment centers and supply them and/or their family with naloxone.
THE WORK IS ONGOING
While strides have been made, this war is far from over. Officials in the state of Ohio and the city of Dayton are continuing to work together with the medical, social work and substance abuse treatment communities to save the lives of those struggling with addition and to give them a real chance at lasting recovery and resiliency.