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Ohio overdose deaths soar as some states report decline

Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 18:19:33-05

Parts of the country are now seeing fewer people dying from overdoses but the exact opposite is happening here in Ohio.

Fourteen states are now reporting a decrease, while Ohio saw a spike of nearly 40 percent.

"There have been a lot of efforts at various things, but it has not been well coordinated," said Jonathan Lee, Signature Health CEO.

It comes at a time when more than a dozen states reported a decline.

"While we are seeing overdose deaths increasing, we are also seeing the numbers of people in treatment increasing," said Lee.

Lee's Mentor-based Signature Health is providing that much-needed help.

"We have several hundred people in treatment," said Lee.

As for why so many more people are dying from overdoses in Ohio than elsewhere, Lee shared his theories.

"Sooner or later this will crescendo, and it will move on to other substances, unfortunately," said Lee.

Lee told News 5 that's exactly what addicts in other states may be doing.

"People are starting to see more and more positive urine screenings for crystal meth," said Lee.

Lee said the drug, which is harder to die from, is now making a comeback outside Ohio.

As for tackling overdoses from opioids, Lee wants to see more focus put on education and prevention.

"There have been a lot of efforts at various things, but it has not been well coordinated," said Lee.

While changing prescribing habits among doctors has been a big focus of the opioid fight, in Ohio, Lee said that's a small drop in the bucket in the push to save lives.

"Much of what's going on is synthetic in nature. It's not that a manufacturer has made it or that a doctor has prescribed it, it's out on the streets," said Lee.

Lee wants to see more money put into prevention and more coordination between states.

"We absolutely need to network with our colleagues to the west portion of the United States that aren't seeing the same type of increases that we are here in the Midwest," said Lee.

In Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths in Ohio jumped from 3,763 in July of 2016 to 5,232 in 2017.

To give you some perspective closer to home, in Cuyahoga County more than 800 people died from an overdose last year up from 666.

The number of them due to Heroin dropped, but synthetic carfentanil and fentanyl deaths skyrocketed.