An overdose death in every county

Deaths decline in second half

The death toll is here. Ohio has finished counting its dead from drug overdoses in 2017.  The results are horrific, with a glimmer of hope at the end.

Harm Reduction Ohio reported on July 31 that a record 4,854 Ohio residents died from drug overdoses in 2017, a 19.9% increase from 2016.  Death was driven by the emergence of carfentanil in Ohio’s illegal drug supply. Ohio drug users are dying from a contaminated  and unknowable illegal drug supply, not increase in drug use.

The Ohio Department of Health will release its official analysis of 2017 overdose deaths later this month. Since the data is already available on the department’s public mortality database, Harm Reduction Ohio analyzed overdose death itself to provide a deeper understanding of the ever-changing patterns in our public health catastrophe.

Today, we look at what happened locally — in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Key findings:

  • Highest death rate. Montgomery County (Dayton) had the highest death rate in Ohio. In 2017, one out of every 1,020 residents in the county died of a drug overdose. In all, 521 residents died of drug overdoses in 2017, up from 320 in 2016.
  • Second highest death rate. Fayette County (Washington Court House) lost one out of every 1,106 residents to a drug overdose. The high death toll is unusual for rural counties. Fayette County’s population is 28,752. But 26 county residents suffered fatal overdoses in 2017, up from seven in 2016. The county, located about 45 miles south of Columbus, is notorious for its hostility to drug users. The county does not distribute Narcan, and Washington Court House, its largest city, files charges against people who suffer overdoses for “inducing panic.” Bad policy kills — literally in Washington Court House, Ohio.
  • Death in every county. All 88 counties suffered at least one overdose death in 20017. That’s a first. Last year, one county (Paulding, bordering Indiana in northwest Ohio) had zero overdose deaths. This year, it had three. In previous years, at least three counties with free of overdose deaths.
  • Death fall in last six months. Ohio suffered its worst overdose death month in January 2017 when 484 people died. Deaths remained near that record high — 482 deaths in April 2017, for example — until dropping below 400 per month in July. In the second half of the year, 2,107 Ohioans died from overdoses vs. 2,747 in the first half. (A decline in carfentanil was the reason.)

Harm Reduction Ohio will report later on other changes in overdose death in Ohio. Using preliminary data, we’ve reported on most important trends. African Americans are dying in record numbers, reshaping an epidemic that had skewed toward (poor) white Ohioans. Also, cocaine and meth users are now bearing an equal or great brunt of death than heroin users, making Ohio’s narrow focus on heroin users an outdated and disconnected way to think about the overdose epidemic.

But, today, think about your hometown.

The number of overdose deaths and death rates (not age-adjusted) for every county can be found here or by clicking on the chart.

Click for all counties

The above death rates are unadjusted. The state also provides more sophisticated age-adjusted death rates for Ohio’s bigger counties. Here are those rates.

And for those who want all the data in downloadable form.

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