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Middletown leaders voice progress in overdose fight

Three months after some dire predictions were made, the number of heroin overdose runs and deaths have declined .

About 50 community and professional leaders attended the 11th Heroin Summit held Monday at Atrium Medical Center to hear updates in Middletown’s efforts in its battle with the opioid epidemic that has gripped the city and region.

MORE: Middletown on pace to double drug overdoses from last year

City Manager Doug Adkins credited the enforcement efforts, the outreach efforts by the Quick Response Team and needle exchanges, information sharing with other communities, getting people into treatment, providing more education and publicity as reasons why there has been a significant decrease in the numbers.

Through May 31, the city has experienced 451 non-fatal overdoses and 49 fatal overdoses, according to city records. During 2016, there were 458 overdoses in the city and 74 fatal overdoses.

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Adkins said those numbers have gone down from June 1 through Sept. 16 with 303 non-fatal overdoses and 16 fatal overdoses recorded.

MORE: Heroin ‘eating’ Middletown’s public safety services

While there are still addiction issues, other drugs, such as methamphetamines and cocaine are on the rise according to police Lt. David Birk.

Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said police have been successful with their drug detection dogs and working regionally with Butler County’s BURN unit, the Warren County Drug Task Force. In addition, a Middletown detective has been assigned as a liaison with the DEA office in Dayton.

Fire Capt. David VonBargen said that the Quick Response Team started in June 2016 to reach out to people who overdosed in an effort to get them into a treatment program.

“People don’t know how to get help and the system is hard to navigate,” he said.

MORE: Those on front line of heroin epidemic share frustrations, concerns

Adkins said the negative national publicity over the past three months has been difficult for him and the city as they work to attract new businesses and families to locate in Middletown. Some national media identified Middletown as the epicenter of the heroin epidemic in Ohio and failed to include the positive efforts by the community as it attacked the opioid issue, he said.

MORE: Middletown police join Butler County’s specialized drug task force

Middletown Municipal Judge Melynda Cook Howard said, “We keep going. We’ve proven we can come together as a community.”

“Sometimes when you’re weary, you need to renew your strengths,” said Anita Scott Jones, of Atrium Medical Center and a former city council member.

MORE: Middletown city manager will ask council for $100K to fight heroin

Jones suggested that the city invite Yahoo.com reporters to come back to Middletown to show what the city has done collectively, similar to what was done when Forbes magazine called Middleetown one of the nation’s fastest dying cities in 2008.

“Middletown is going to be the epicenter of recovery,” said Kathy Becker of Access Counseling Services. “Middletown will be a shining star.”

The next summit will be held in January 2018.

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