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Columbus Expanding Addiction Efforts To All Substances, Not Just Opioids

Columbus Public Health on Parsons Avenue.
file photo
Columbus Public Health on Parsons Avenue.

Two people die each day from overdoses in Franklin County. Columbus Public Health on Tuesday released an updated strategic plan to tackle the addiction problem.

While the drug overdose death rate in Ohio has gone down as a whole, it continues to increasein Franklin County. Columbus Public Health says that misuse of prescription drugs, the resurgence of heroin and synthetic drugs like fentanyl all contribute to the growing death toll.

"Compared to Ohio and the United States, Franklin County saw the highest rate of unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2018," says Columbus health commissioner Mysheika Roberts. 
Now, city officials say they will begin targeting all substances that lead to addiction, not just opioids. Columbus Public Health and community partners aim to decrease all overdoses by 15%, decrease drug overdose deaths by 15%, and decrease incidents of blood-born diseases by 10%.

“We have some really bold goals that we are now going to be held accountable to, and we are going to work every single day to make sure we accomplish that,” Roberts says.

To achieve those goals, Roberts says the city will improve education about drug use, expand access to treatment, and increase availability of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

"It's a road map for our collective community efforts," Roberts says of the plan. "It will help us meet the changing needs of this addiction crisis. Again it's not just opiates, we know that there are many other drugs out there that individuals are addicted to."

Columbus has already made headway on some of its efforts. Roberts says that more than 770,000 clean syringes were distributed by Franklin County’s syringe access program Safe Pointbetween 2017-2019. Safe Point last year moved to a dedicated space in the Franklinton neighborhood, which has one of the highest overdose death rates in the city.

During the same period, the city distributed nearly 1,700 Naloxone kits. At a press conference Tuesday, one audience member argued that wasn’t nearly enough, considering 4,300 people use injectable drugs each day in Franklin County.