Friday, January 19, 2018

Common Ground reports high opioid abuse in Steuben in 2016

BATH -- A report released this week by the Finger Lakes health agency "Common Ground Health" indicates Steuben County experienced one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the region in 2016. "We have been saying for nearly two years that the opioid epidemic has reached critical proportions here in Steuben," said county Manager Jack Wheeler said. "What is most important now is working to prevent the next hospital admission or death." According to the recent study of hospital admission and emergency department data from Common Ground Health, Steuben residents visited hospital emergency department for opioid abuse or overdoses 121 times in 2016. Fourteen people died that year from opioids – nearly triple the five deaths that occurred in 2015. The report also found evidence a key factor in opioid addiction in the Finger Lakes was prescriptive medication. Some 54 percent of people who overdosed on opioids in the region had a prescription for opioids within the prior two years (2014 to 2016), according to Common Ground. The Common Ground study further showed, for non-heroin opioid overdoses, 68 percent of the people who overdosed had prior prescriptions for painkillers. Steuben has a strong history of proactively fighting against substance abuse among its residents. In addition to law enforcement efforts such as the District Attorney’s Drug Task Force, the county Sheriff’s anonymous tip line and drop boxes for unused medications, and treatment offerings by the Department of Community Services, the county hosted three forums in 2017 intended to provide information and assistance to those struggling with addiction. The county also joined a class action lawsuit in the effort to curb opioid addiction and recover the soaring local costs in law enforcement, mental health and social services caused by drug addiction. The lawsuit includes large prescribers as well as the pharmaceutical industry. The county is looking for more avenues to pursue in combatting substance abuse and will continue to engage the community and local partners, Wheeler said.