Cuyahoga County Drug Deaths Decrease In 2018

A report out Friday from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner finds a rare bit of good news about opioid deaths. In 2018, overdose fatalities went down for the first time in 11 years. There were 727 drug-related deaths in 2017, but Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson says that number dropped almost a quarter last year.

“We saw, over that time frame, declines in virtually every important drug we track,” he said. “That would include especially fentanyl which is our nemesis, really, for the most drug overdoses we ever had in this county.”

Officials say increased availability for treatment is a major reason for the improvement.  Another is the overdose reversal drug Naloxone.  MetroHealth distributed 2,000 kits last year and reported 400 patient revivals.  

But drug court Judge Joan Synenberg cautions the problem is not solved.

“Deaths are down and that’s very fortunate but use is not down,” she said. “You see how much effort it takes from all of our community partners to keep people from dying. This is a crisis that is in progress.”

Officials say other counties in Northeast Ohio expect to see similar improvements.

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