COLUMBUS — Ohio officials are reporting that a record number of accidental drug overdoses claimed the lives of 3,050 people in Ohio in 2015. This equates to an average of eight per day.
Reportedly, more than one-third of the accidental deaths were linked to fentanyl, a pain killer. It is reported that fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled from 2014, pushing the overdose toll to a record.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ medical director says Ohio’s addictions epidemic can only be dealt with through prevention, intervention, treatment and use of life-saving measures such as an overdose antidote, according to a news released Thursday.
Margaret Tyson, Pastor of Allen Chapel African Methodist Church in Portsmouth, and Quinn Chapel AMEC, in Ironton, said silence must cease and action must be taken in regard to the drug epidemic in Ohio.
“The epidemic of accidental drug overdoses in Ohio has reached epic proportions. With the rate of eight deaths per day we can no longer be silent, nor sit on the sidelines as our communities are being decimated by illicit drug use,” Tyson said.
Tyson also said people must come together in love and provide help.
“It has become incumbent upon us to come together in love and seek to provide help in the form of prevention education, intervention, aid stations and accessible medical services. We need to open our doors and our hearts to help our neighbors who are lost and in trouble; and then address the underlying social problems,” Tyson said.
Pastor Tim Throckmorton, of McDermott and Senior Pastor of Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio, said hearing the recent news about the overdoses is heartbreaking.
“First of all this news is heartbreaking. When you filed down statistics and personalize them like that particular structure did it really brings it home, and helps us put faces to those who are suffering, that have lost their lives to families touched by this massive problem,” Throckmorton said. “This outbreak that we’re experiencing over and over again is truly generational, its gone on for so long.
Throckmorton said there are many churches that are aware and involved in the drug epidemic.
“There are many churches that are aware, and there are more churches that are offering some sort of addiction counseling, addiction groups, and I very glad that the churches are becoming more involved,” Throckmorton said. “There are great ministries in Southern Ohio, and Ohio overall in which are making a difference. I am also a part of a committee that Representative Terry Johnson put together that is looking at ways through education, through churches to present preventative measures before it comes. How can we teach differently, how can we look at every level of the schools, influence parent skills and stop the generational onslaught of this thing.”
Additionally, officials concede the problem has grown, but they have hope of making headway. They point to progress in curbing prescription opiate abuse and say they’re working to improve access to the antidote and drug treatment and recovery resources.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.