Opioid overdoses trending down in Middletown

Middletown is making progress in reducing the number of overdoses reported in the city.

City officials Monday released the latest overdose statistics through Nov. 30, which show fatal and nonfatal overdoses down as much as 49 percent for 2018 compared to 2017.

In November 2018, there were 17 opioid-related overdose incidents that included two fatals — that is down 67 percent from the totals reported for November 2017. This is in addition to 178 EMS responses for meth, cocaine, alcohol, unknown and prescription abuse through November 2018.

The number of overdoses reported in November 2017 there were 51 opioid-related overdoses — seven fatal overdoses and 48 non-fatal overdoses.

Through 2018 — there have been 45 fatal overdoses and 469 non-fatal overdoses.

In 2017, there were 966 opioid-related overdoses — 77 fatal and 889 non-fatal overdoses.

“We continue to be encouraged by the overdose reductions in Middletown,” said City Manager Doug Adkins. “This reduction has coincided with significant reductions in overall calls for police service, Part 1 crimes, and thefts for 2018. We hope to see the trend accelerate as we move into 2019.”

“There are a number of things contributing to the lower number of responses to overdoses,” Middletown Fire Capt. David VonBargen said.

He cited five factors:

  • Law enforcement making a "significant" number of arrests throughout 2018, plus the use of canines in traffic stops and collaborations with surrounding jurisdictions
  • The active outreach and expansion of the Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team
  • Harm reduction programs that have helped to reduce calls.
  • Collaborations among jurisdictions, government agencies and private businesses
  • Grant funding from multiple sources

“Law enforcement does a great job with the supply issue and the Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team addresses the demand side of this epidemic,” VonBargen said. “Both are needed.”

He also said the Heroin Hopeline, who provides care coordination for the team has placed several hundred into treatment this past year alone.

“The Quick Response Team has expanded into other parts of the county,” VonBargen said. “We want to improve our community by removing the drugs and getting our residents help without pushing the problems into the surrounding communities. Every community has the opportunity to do this outreach with the help of the Heroin Hopeline.”

VonBargen said they have regularly scheduled meetings with the judge and courts. In addition, they go out into the community one day a week trying to connect with individuals.

MORE: Middletown opioid crisis: 11 staggering numbers for 2017

“The constant engagement of our care coordinators with our residents and families has been key and made our Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team a success,” VonBargen said. “(The) partnerships with One City Against Heroin, Interact for Health, the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, the health departments in the county along with many others working together has been invaluable.”

VonBargen was asked if he foresees any upward spikes as 2018 winds down.

“The past few years have been a roller coaster ride and this is very unpredictable,” he said. “There is nothing in the region that says we will spike, however, those indicators only come with a one- to three-day notice. The report shows a declining trend a couple different ways and I would like to think with continued hard work we will see this trend continue.”

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw agreed with VonBargen about enforcement being a part of the solution to reduce overdoses and said, “the Heroin Response Team with the fire department and social workers have made a huge difference as well.”

He said the post-treatment and visitation approach has been what the city needed.

“Our calls for service/activity at this time in 2017 was 42,800. This year at this time it’s about 30,000 — yet our felony drug arrests are about the same,” Muterspaw said.

He said there are three agencies working in Middletown in regards to drugs that include the police Special Operations Unit, the Butler County Sheriff’s BURN unit, and a city detective assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Muterspaw also said the reputation of the Middletown Police canine unit has gotten out to the drug element according to confidential informants. He said drug dealers know the city always has drug canines working, and they now avoid the city.

“We have worked federal cases with Homeland Security and the FBI which has cast a huge net over the drug dealers entering Butler County,” Muterspaw said. “As a result, this has taken us into several federal cases stretching all the way to California and Mexico.”

Muterspaw estimated the street value of drugs and cash seized in 2018 at about $3 million.

“That has a direct effect on the drug trade in Middletown,” he said. “Our Special Ops have applied a zero tolerance policy to hard drugs.”

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If you, or someone you know, needs help with an opioid-related addiction, contact the Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team through the crisis line at 1-844-427-4747 (1-844-4CRISIS)

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2016: 74 fatal, 458 non-fatal. Total: 532

2017: 77 fatal, 889 non-fatal:. Total: 966

2018: 45 fatal, 469 non-fatal. Total: 469*

* Through Nov. 30, 2018

SOURCE: Middletown Division of Fire

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