Officials see new hope in the new year when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic

Officials see new hope in the new year when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic (WKEF/WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WRGT/WKEF) -- Preliminary overdose numbers for Montgomery County are in, and the monthly trends read like a roller coaster. Health officials believe the ride is slowing down, and they want that to continue in 2018.

The Montgomery County Coroners office is putting out a preliminary number of 559, which is a far cry from the 800 accidental overdose deaths that were predicted earlier in the year. The numbers began to fall after a large spike in the spring.

"Our current trend since June is very promising," said Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.

While the numbers are heading in the right direction, the total is still 60 percent higher than what Cooper said the county finished with in 2016.

"We have to find ways of which to prevent them from starting misuse in the first place," Helen Jones-Kelley said. She is the the Montgomery County Alcohol Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services (ADAMHS).

The Community Overdose Action Team (COAT) is working to devise ways to keep the downward trend of overdoses continuing into 2018.

From January through March, Wright State medical students will be visiting hospitals and doctors offices in the zip codes with the highest overdose rates to give out literature on proper medicine use and disposal.

"Nearly 80 percent of heroin users say they started their addiction with prescription meds," Jones-Kelley said.

She added that 70 percent of users said they took those drugs from friends and family.

"If [drugs] are outdated, and you no longer use them, I ask you to safely dispose of them," said Gail Dafler with Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley.

The county has 15,000 disposable drug bags that can neutralize pills to be thrown out in the trash. They are free at all Goodwill stores, Zik's Pharmacy, St. Elizabeth Pharmacy, and at Kroger Pharmacies if you have an opioid prescription.

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