ELYRIA — Elyria police investigated more overdoses in 2017 than in 2016 and have not seen a dramatic decrease in the number of drug deaths.
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely, citing data collected from the Narcotics Unit, said Elyria officers responded to 210 overdoses in 2017. That is 40 more reported overdoses than in 2016.
Whitely said the number of overdoses in Elyria could be higher; some cases are called into 911 as medical emergencies, but others go straight to the hospital without involving police. Still, he said he sees it as strong indication that drug use, especially opioid-based drug use, has not slowed in Elyria.
Last year had 31 fatal overdoses, which is one less than in 2016.
Whitely said the statistics allow the NarcoticS Unit to set goals for each year. Officers are approaching 2018 with a plan to provide more education and resources to the community to reduce heroin and opioid deaths and overdoses in the community while aggressively going after offenders.
“All we can do is go off the numbers, and the numbers are showing there are more overdoses happening,” he said. “I am going to say it is not improving. I am just happy the percent of people dying is dropping.”
As Elyria considers allowing its former Health Department building to be turned into a drug rehab facility, likely one geared toward women, Whitely said a strong push has to be made in multiple areas to make a difference.
“We really need to address the opioid use in multiple ways,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to overdose. We don’t want anyone dying. The dealers need to be sent a message. We keep arresting the same people over and over again. There needs to be more education. There needs to be more treatment facilities. We need to improve our approach in multiple ways to fight this epidemic.”
It will be some time before countywide fatal overdose numbers are available. County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans has said he expects the number of deaths related to drug overdoses in 2017 to exceed 2016 numbers, but he will not have total figures until next month. Last year’s total was 132 overdose deaths.
“We’re at least where we were last year, which is terrible,” Evans said late last month.
Evans said multiple drug combinations used in street drugs has resulted in a backlog at the crime lab. Evans said fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose deaths, followed by cocaine and then heroin.
He said the use of the drug naloxone by first responders is helping to save lives, but the number of deaths is not dropping.
“I do believe that naloxone is having an effect, but I just don’t know to what degree,” he said.
Herb de la Porte, vice president of LifeCare Ambulance, said from his standpoint he has seen a marked decrease in the use of naloxone over the past few months, which corresponds with Evans’ figures that the majority of the drug deaths were seen in the first half of 2017.
“The perception is there are fewer overdoses, but the ones we do have are extremely resistant to (naloxone) or have already expired,” he said. “Overdosed are very straightforward. Personally, I think publicity is working.”
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