A Middletown medic unit arrives at a location of a possible opioid overdose. The Butler County Coroner’s Office reports fatal overdoses are up for the first quarter of 2020 over the first quarter of 2019. FILE PHOTO

County opioid overdose deaths up slightly in first quarter of 2020

In first quarter of 2020, there were 46 known or suspected overdoses, up from 32 in the first quarter of 2019.

Of the overdose cases investigated by the coroner’s office, 33 cases were positive for fentanyl use in the first quarter of 2020, up from 27 cases from the same time period in 2019.

The coroner’s office also reported 12 cases were found positive with methamphetamines in 2020, up from 10 in first quarter of 2019. In addition, nine of those 12 cases involving meth also had fentanyl in 2020, up from seven of 10 cases from 2019.

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The Butler County Coroner’s Office also has eight cases still pending toxicology results.

While deaths are up for the first quarter, some Butler County fire and EMS departments said they expected an uptick of fatal overdoses in March and April, but have not yet seen it.

Middletown Fire Capt. David VonBargen said they’ve seen a decrease in the number of overdoses and deaths in the first quarter of 2020.

Last year, VonBargen said Middletown recorded 92 overdoses and 11 deaths for the first quarter in 2019. A year later, that number dropped to 72 overdoses and nine deaths.

He said he’s seen alerts from Hamilton and Franklin counties when overdose deaths rise in a short period of time, but Butler County has not.

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VonBargen said following up on overdoses has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the Heroin Quick Response Team continues to reach out to people who overdosed in other ways, such as phone or social media, instead of house to house visits. VonBargen said care coordinators are using ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, to get patients to treatment and other outreach facilities.

Tom Wagner, Fairfield deputy fire chief, said they have seen an uptick in overdoses in the first quarter of 2020.

He said the city’s Quick Response Team is still working and like Middletown, they are using other ways to gather information and offer other assistance to overdose patients.

Fairfield saw a spike in overdoses in March, responding to 15. There were only four overdose calls in January, nine in February and seven to far in April, Wagner said.

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Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer said there has been a reduction in call volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said HFD averaged about 37 runs a day in mid-February. As of Monday, their 10-day run average was at 29.7 runs a day.

Mercer said 2017 was a peak year for overdoses.

“There might be a spike coming, but we haven’t seen it and if we’re seeing it, we haven’t been talking about it,” he said. “It not something that’s hitting us hard.”

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