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The fading presence of carfentanil may have played a major role in the decline of drug-related deaths in some parts of Ohio.

Overdose deaths in Montgomery County—in Dayton, Ohio—have dramatically decreased in 2018. The county has seen an incredible 54% decline in overdose deaths: there were 548 by November 30 last year; this year there have been 250.

Dayton is an economically-challenged city, deserted of jobs after manufacturers left in droves. Some speculate that this is part of the reason why Dayton had the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation in 2017.

The overdose deaths were so rapid and unrelenting that according to Wral.com, the coroner’s office continuously ran out of space, and ended up renting refrigerated trailers. So what has changed?

The New York Times did extensive research and reporting on the ground to look into the positive changes in Dayton. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley believes the largest impact on the rate of overdose deaths came from Gov. John Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2015. This expansion allowed almost 700,000 low-income adults access to free addiction and mental health treatment.

In addition to the treatments being free for low-income residents, the expansion of Medicaid pulled in more than a dozen new treatment providers within a year. Some of these providers are residential programs and outpatient clinics that utilize methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone for their patients. These are the three FDA-approved medications to treat opioid addiction.

“It’s the basis — the basis — for everything we’ve built regarding treatment,” NYT reported Mayor Whaley said at City Hall. “If you’re a state that does not have Medicaid expansion, you can’t build a system for addressing this disease.”

Dayton’s East Held holds a bimonthly event called Conversations for Change, which lays out the available addiction treatment options. Food is served, and anyone attending can meet treatment providers. The New York Times reported the evening they attended there were more than a dozen tables of providers.

Significant to a large degree is the fading presence on the streets of Dayton of carfentanil, an analog of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Carfentanil is described by the CDC as 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

In recent years carfentanil was very present in Ohio street drugs, for unknown reasons. Mid-2017 carfentanil’s hold began to loosen, possibly because drug traffickers realized they were losing money due to the large upsurge in overdose deaths, said Timothy Plancon, a DEA special agent in charge of Ohio.

A crucial decision was made by Richard Biehl, Dayton police chief, in 2014. Chief Biehl ordered all officers to carry naloxone, directly contrary to some of his peers in other Ohio cities. Naloxone, or Narcan, is the well-known medication that reverses opioid overdoses if administered in a timely manner.

Police in Ohio and others elsewhere oppose harm reduction tools like naloxone due to a belief that they simply enable drug use. Still, the evidence is overwhelming that they save lives.

View the original article at thefix.com

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