Monday, Aug 20, 2018
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Ottawa County officials issue advisory after rash of overdoses

PORT CLINTON — Ottawa County officials have issued an overdose advisory to warn the public about the strength of opioids in use after five people overdosed in the last week, three fatally. 

“Based upon the recent trend, it is suspected that a batch of opiates is circulating within Ottawa County that is much more potent than usual,” Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerten said.

The suspected overdoses are being investigated by the Ottawa County Drug Task Force, Port Clinton Police, and the Ottawa County Coroner’s Office, Mr. VanEerten said.

“We’re trying to make people aware so they can keep a closer eye on their loved ones,” said Dr. Dan Cadigan, the Ottawa County coroner.

The three deaths — a woman in her 20s and a man and woman in their 40s — include a suspected prescription overdose and two related to illicit drugs, he said. The two most recent occurred Monday morning and Tuesday morning. The identities of the deceased were not immediately available Tuesday afternoon.

There is no known connection between the deaths, other than they occurred in a close geographic area, he said. 

“The concern always is, are you looking at the same dealer and he has a bad batch of drugs?” he said. 

There were 14 drug overdose deaths in Ottawa County in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Health. 

Potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, have contributed to the rise in overdose deaths around the country. 

Ohio is among the hardest hit. There were 5,256 drug-overdose deaths statewide during the 12-month period ending in June. That represented a 43.9 percent increase from the previous 12-month period ending in June, 2016, when there were 3,652 overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only Florida, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia had higher percent increases in that period.

Lt. Robert Chromik, who leads the Drug Abuse Response Team of the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, said his unit has not seen a similar spike in overdoses like the spike reported in Ottawa County, though he alerted his team as soon as the advisory was announced. 

“Usually when there is a really bad case and people are passing away, we usually find that it’s fentanyl or stronger,” he said. “I think we're far past heroin at this point, we're just dealing with synthetics and other chemically-formulated synthetics.”

Looking at the Ottawa County situation, Lieutenant Chromik said his team would be watching the eastern side of Lucas County, to see if it is creeping across county borders. A hypothetical spike at a hospital such as Mercy Health St. Charles in Oregon could be such an indicator, he said.

Several factors could trigger the county’s contingency plan, including a high number of overdoses in a short period of time, at the same location, or arriving at the same hospital. In the event that it is needed, Lieutenant Chromik said the sheriff, health commissioner, director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, and treatment providers are notified to increase communication and expedite access to recovery services.  

Officials ask anyone needing addiction services in Ottawa County to visit or call the Drug Addiction Response Team at 419-734-6845. For medical emergencies, call 911.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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