Nearly 20 Ohio counties will receive funding through a $350 million study aimed at reducing opioid-related deaths by forty percent over three years.
The study, through the National Institutes of Health, is called Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEALing). Ohio, Kentucky, New York and Massachusetts, which have all been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, were selected for funding.
In the Buckeye state, Ohio State University was selected as a research site. The university will partner with 19 counties to measure the impact of evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery interventions across primary care, behavioral health, justice and other settings.
Northeast Ohio counties included in the study are Stark, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula and Huron.
The study could result in more prevention and treatment options and additional naloxone — the overdose reversing drug — in communities.
Michele Boone, the director of clinical services for Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery, said the county already has a collaborative effort between law enforcement, hospitals and behavioral health facilities, as well an opiate task force, but also stressed the extra funding is welcomed.
"With everybody kind of being on the same page and on board with the reduction efforts, whether it's treatment prevention or those recovery supports, it's very valuable to have everybody on the same page to be able to move those initiatives forward," Boone said.
Stark County Coroner Dr. Anthony Bertin said deadly overdoses, mostly due to opioids, hit a record high in 2016 with 119.
The numbers decreased to 87 in 2017 and 75 in 2018.
However, Bertin is concerned with a spike in fatal overdoses in 2019. There have been 27 so far.
"It's mostly opiates and fentanyl or cocaine alone or cocaine with fentanyl," he said.
Details on exactly how much money Ohio counties will receive and a specific plan of action still need to be worked out, but Bertin has one idea on how some of the money should be spent.
"We have to have better mental health treatment to help these individuals," Bertin said.
Other grants were issued to the University of Kentucky, Boston Medical Center and Columbia University.