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Overdose deaths down in Cuyahoga County

But leaders warn there's still work to do
Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-11 18:21:59-05

CLEVELAND — After two straight years of increases, the number of people who died from drug overdoses dropped 23 percent in 2018, according to preliminary figures from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.

"We're seeing some of the lowest numbers we've seen in years, and in some case, since we started tracking this data," said County Executive Armond Budish.

According to the medical examiner, 560 deaths in Cuyahoga County were the result of drug overdoses in 2018. That's the lowest number in the three years, but still an average of almost 11 deaths a week.

"Losing 560 people in a year is nothing to celebrate and the misery that comes with each of those losses that ripples out into the community is nothing to celebrate," said Medical Examiner Dr. Tom Gilson. "But I do take it as a good sign that we're headed in the right direction."

Deaths attributed to fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin and cocaine all dropped in 2018.

County leaders say the reductions weren't the product of any one thing, but instead a combined effort. That included public service messages, more treatment beds for addicts, the work of law enforcement and the use of nalaxone to reverse the effects of overdoses and save lives.

But they say there's more work to do. Already in the first 10 days of 2019, a dozen people have died of drug overdoses in the county.

"We don't have any indication people are using less," said Justin Herdman, US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "Maybe certain substances like carfentanil, there's less of it on the streets right now, but overall use? It continues to be a concern."