Coming Sunday: Coordinated effort begins to address opioid overdose epidemic

An unending pursuit to eliminate pain in the American population has led to the downside of drug use — addiction. That’s according to two speakers familiar with a growing problem of opioid abuse.

Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s employee and student assistance director, and Columbus Police Sgt. Jay Frederick, both members of the Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council, teamed again to talk about opioid addiction and its local ramifications during a community forum.

One of the charts Frederick added to his presentation Wednesday was an updated count of overdoses in Bartholomew County, provided by Bartholomew County’s Emergency Operations Director Ed Reuter.

Those numbers show overdose calls increased in January from 11 in 2016 to 21 this year, and in February from 13 in 2016 to 31 this year.

Last year, 12 people in the county died from heroin overdoses, more than the previous three years combined: three in 2013, five in 2014 and one in 2015. Also in 2016, the county’s emergency operations center received 181 calls about all types of overdoses — up from 115 in 2015.

Although the numbers do not differentiate between what were opioid overdoses and those that might be other types of substances, Frederick said the numbers are pretty eye-opening as to what is happening locally with addiction.

“Columbus is no different than any other community facing this,” he said, describing it as the “perfect storm” of circumstances that have led people to seek pain-reducing substances from drug dealers after becoming addicted through prescription medication.

For an update on community-wide efforts to explore a coordinated response to the ongoing opioid overdose problem, see Sunday’s Republic.