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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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        Trevor Johnson, of Port Clinton, has been appointed director of the newly-formed Drug Addiction  Response Team (DART) in Ottawa County.

        James VanEerten, county prosecutor, announced the hiring last month after the prosecutor’s office  cited the need for additional resources to battle the opiate epidemic in Ohio.

        “With the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses on the rise in the county, this program will provide criminal investigation and linkage services to overdose survivors and their families,” VanEerten said.

        He described DART as a collaborative diversion effort involving law enforcement, mental health providers, drug addiction counselors and other medical service providers to ensure that addicts receive needed help.

        DART officers will respond to reported overdoses in the county and treatment options will be offered to overdose survivors. They, in turn, can avoid criminal charges by complying with the recommended testing by completing a period of being supervised by law enforcement agencies.

        Criminal charges can be filed if program participants don’t comply with the requirements.

        VanEerten said there is currently little follow-up on non-fatal overdose cases due to limited resources and changes in state law. Consequently, there are few criminal investigations into those cases.

        A more common scenario, he said, is the overdose survivor is transported to the hospital for treatment and law enforcement involvement ends there, resulting in a revolving door of addicts who overdose continually.

        As a result, there are no repercussions like mandated treatment or criminal liability.

        VanEerten said the program will provide follow-up services to addicts in need of treatment as well as investigations needed for prosecuting those who refuse treatment.

         He said the county program is seeking grant funding from the Ohio Attorney General’s office for operating costs.

        The Ottawa County commissioner’s office, sheriff’s office and county common pleas court are collaborating with the prosecutor’s office and many local police departments in the county have expressed support.

        The state legislature passed the “Good Samaritan Law” that took effect earlier this year. The law provides immunity to overdose survivors and others at the scene if they accept treatment or related services.

        Those who don’t complete treatment can be charged.

        Under the law, police agencies must verify that an individual hasn’t engaged in treatment prior to initiating overdose charges.

Epidemic changing

        The state’s opioid epidemic continued to change in 2016 as stronger drugs driving an increase in unintentional overdose deaths, according to a new report by the Ohio Department of Health, which shows a rise in the use of fentanyl and related drugs like carfentanil.

        Also, cocaine is now being used with fentanyl and other opiates.

        However, the report indicates the fewest number of prescription opioid overdose deaths since 2009.

        Overdose deaths increased from 3,050 in 2015 to 4,050 in 2016 – and fentanyl and related drugs were involved in about 58.2 percent of them.

        By comparison, fentanyl was involved in 38 percent of overdose deaths in 2015, 20 percent in 2014 and 4 percent in 2013.

        The use of carfentanil rose in 2016 and was involved in 340 overdose deaths, most during the second half of the year.

        Of unintentional drug overdose deaths, the percentage of prescription opioid-related deaths declined for the fifth straight year in 2016.

        

 

holidays

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