Richland County fights rise in opioid overdose deaths with personal visits, employer interventions

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 8:17 PM EST
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RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - When a rural Northeast Ohio county saw the number of opioid overdose deaths rise, authorities knew they were in trouble.

That’s when Richland County went on the offensive and created a program to combat fatal overdoses five years ago.

“I think one year we had... about 65 deaths,” said Joe Trolian, the executive director at Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. “We established our opiate review board in August of 2016.”

That board created a response team that goes out and checks on people who have recently overdosed.

“By March of 2017, we were doing our first opiate response team runs,” said Trolian. “We now do... up to five runs a week. We’ve got three different teams. We’ve done responses on over 600 people since we started in March of 2017. Of those, about 283 have actually made it into treatment.”

This year the Richland County Opiate Board saw an increase in overdoses and overdose deaths.

“We are at 39 as of October 31st so we expect it to go up a little bit,” said Trolian. ”But we’re definitely not hitting those monumental numbers.”

They attribute this to more drugs being laced with fentanyl.

Other factors, they said, have played a role, including increased stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and additional access to money because of economic stimulus checks.

“Our latest project is that we are working closely with employers,” said Trolian. “We have a recovery and business project that we’re working on.”

This program allows those recovering from addiction to get back on their feet — the ultimate goal of the review board.

“Where we are trying very hard to help employers feel more comfortable employing people that are maybe in the past have either failed drug tests or were not the most desirable people to be employees,” he said. “We’re working with them because as they go through treatment these people are regaining those skills. They’re good dedicated individuals.”

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