Butler County’s worst month for drug overdoses in 2017 may be November

A recent warning issued by the Butler County Health Department alerting residents and first responders to “a significant increase in the number of opioid overdoses” in a 24-hour period, has prompted the coroner to say that November has the potential to be one of the worst months of 2017 for accidental drug overdoses.

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More than 40 percent of the 453 cases handled by the Butler County Coroner’s Office last year were overdose related, and 80 percent of last year’s 192 overdoses were heroin/fentanyl-related overdose deaths, according to Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix.

On Nov. 15, the health department issued a health warning stating that in the past 24 hours four cases were under investigation as drug overdoses with the potential of a potent fentanyl analog such as carfentanil being potentially responsible for the problem.

Mannix told this news outlet that November is shaping up to be a bad month for accidental drug overdoses in Butler County.

“While we have not seen a day as bad as Nov. 15, where my office had four suspected drug overdose fatalities in a 24-hour period, November as a whole is shaping up to be a very bad month,” she said.” If all cases my office is investigating as drug overdose fatalities come back as such, November will be one of the worst months of 2017 for accidental drug overdoses.”

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The Butler County Health Department will issue a public alert when an overdose number exceeds the baseline set up by the Overdose Alerting Network of Butler County, which tracks coroner death investigations of suspected opioid drug overdoses, hospital emergency room visits for suspected opioid drug overdoses, and emergency medical service runs for suspected opioid drug overdoses, according to Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer.

“When one of three of those indicators exceeds a number considered a dangerous warning sign, a public health alert is sent out to the community,” Bailer said.

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She added, “the Butler County Public Health Departments, Butler County Coroner’s office, Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services along with EMS and police units have been working together to develop an alerting system. This is the first alert to be sent out widely. It lets people know that the coroner investigated four deaths over 24 hours — all suspected to be due to opioids of some kind. Four deaths from overdoses in 24 hours is quite high for our county.”

The alert system is a new tool in combating the overdose epidemic, and Bailer said she hopes it will be an effective one.

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“We appreciate the help and support of many partners in making this overdose alerting system happen. We plan to continue to monitor deaths, EMS runs, and ER visits in the future and will issue additional alerts if situations indicate a need,” she said. “We certainly hope alerts will not need to be sent out very often.”

Bailer said working together as a team with other agencies inside and outside of the county will help keep residents informed about how the battle against drug overdoses and the opioid crisis is progressing.

“It takes a wide variety of partners across all cities, townships, and villages working together to get the big picture of what is happening in all of Butler County,” Bailer said. “In addition, we have had support from Hamilton County Public Health on data analysis for this project.”

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