The Franklin County Coroner’s office says there was a surge in overdose deaths Tuesday.
Alison Holm has more.
Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz reported that 5 people fatally overdosed between 2:30 Tuesday afternoon and shortly before 1 am Wednesday morning. All five deaths were on the south or southwest side of Columbus. Toxicologists are running tests to see if fentanyl was involved.
Fentanyl is involved in a recent spike in overdose deaths around the country, including clusters of overdoses in Cleveland and Norwood, Ohio this month. Cheap and easy to produce, it is often cut into cocaine or heroin, or pressed into tablet form to mimic prescription drugs. Fentanyl is so potent that even a few grains can be deadly.
Columbus firefighter and EMT Tiffanie Paige makes frequent overdose runs on Columbus’ west side. Speaking at a Columbus Metropolitan Club panel last month, Paige described how a similar spike of overdoses developed in July.
”We’ll see a slow period for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden it just started spiking up 3 and 4 a day. And speaking with the patients trying to figure out what was going on it just seemed like something new had hit the streets…. a shipment came in – from somewhere – and everybody was hungry and ready.”
President Trump campaigned on reducing opioid abuse, and last week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in Cleveland that Ohio is one of ten areas law enforcement is focusing on. While there has been a reduction in the prescription of opiods, illegal alternatives like fentanyl and the even stronger carfentanil have been tougher to get a handle on.
4,853 Ohioans fatally overdosed in 2017. Coroner Ortiz stresses the importance of friends and family of potential drug abusers having Naloxone, an opioid reversal drug, on hand. Available without a prescription at pharmacies, the Franklin County Health Department, along with Project DAWN – Deaths Avoided With Naloxone – provides free Naloxone with training on how to administer it.
Faith and community leaders will gather Friday night at St. Johns United Church of Christ in downtown Columbus for a worship service to mark Overdose Awareness Day.