By WAYNE ALLEN
PDT Staff Writer
For the first time in more than a decade drug deaths in Scioto County have decreased, and officials are reacting with sober optimism.
“The rate of drug-related deaths have climbed steadily over the last 10 years. This is the first time we’ve seen that number decline since we started keeping track in 2001,” said Lisa Roberts, public health nurse with the Portsmouth City Health Department. “We know this number has declined because of our efforts and the community’s efforts to interfere with illegal distribution of pain pills. It’s also the result of a lot of community education. It was a wonderful year of the community coming together.”
According to the Scioto County Coroner Dr. Darren Adams’ office, in 2011 there were 20 deaths directly related to drugs and 11 deaths attributed as drug-related deaths. In 2010, there were 24 deaths directly related to drugs and 19 deaths that were drug-related.
“We know there was one million that were dispensed from this county last year. That was before the last pain clinics closed down. We’ve seen graphs that show the overdose deaths run parallel to the distribution rates,” Roberts said. “We suspected that if you decrease the supply the other bad things would logically follow. This is evidence it’s happening.”
Thus far in 2012 there have been three deaths directly related to drugs and six drug-related deaths. The 2012 figures are pending final autopsy results.
Roberts said these numbers also show there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We still have overprescribers in the community, we still have people who are getting pills for drug trafficking purposes. We still have people who are going all over the country and bringing pills back,” Roberts said.
She said the implementation of HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) will equip area law enforcement with more tools to combat this issue.
“We (Scioto County Drug Action Team) are going to ramp up our efforts to increase the community’s ability to create an environment were kids aren’t as likely to try drugs,” Roberts said. “We’ve turned a corner in this battle but there is still a long way to go.”
For more information about the Scioto County Drug Action Team, visit the Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse, Misuse and Overdose Facebook group.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.