LOGAN — Hocking County officially recognized Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day at a Hocking County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Brian Howard, community services manager at Health Recovery Services, a 317 Board-funded private nonprofit that treats substance abuse, introduced a proclamation the commissioners signed, declaring the last day of August to be a day that raises awareness about overdosing, honors those who have died, and acknowledges “the grief felt by families, friends, and communities.”

The proclamation read that, according to preliminary data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5,215 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2020. Outside, the Hocking County Courthouse’s American flag stood at half-staff by order of Gov. Mike DeWine in honor of Ohio Overdose Awareness Day.

According to a press release from DeWine’s office, Tuesday marked the first observance of Ohio Overdose Awareness Day following Senate Bill 30, which he signed in June.

Aug. 31 is also International Overdose Awareness Day, which, according to overdoseday.com, was begun in 2001 by Sally J. Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.

Just this year, almost double the number of Hocking County residents have died of drug overdoses this year compared to 2020, according to a previous Logan Daily News report.

Data showed nine deaths of residents who have died of overdoses this year, from substances ranging from fentanyl to heroin, to methamphetamine to nondescript “illicit drugs.” The majority of those who have died have been men, and the age range is 32–65. Not all Hocking County residents who have died of drug overdoses died in the county.

In an email Tuesday Hocking County Health Department Registrar Shari Schorr said that there are an additional five deaths that occurred in the county and five Hocking County resident deaths with results pending; however, “I doubt that they are all drug-related,” Schorr stated. Schorr explained that it can take several weeks to months for autopsy and toxicology results to be completed.

According to Harm Reduction Ohio, Hocking County has one of the highest meth-related overdose death rates in Ohio this year. Harm Reduction Ohio also reported on Aug. 23 that there have been 2,290 overdose deaths statewide so far this year, up from a 2,178 confirmed overdose deaths at this time last year.

According to data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Hocking County had an unintentional overdose death rate of 24.4 per 100,000 people in 2019. That same year, there were five unintentional overdose deaths; 11 in 2018 and eight in 2017.

In observance of Ohio Overdose Awareness Day, throughout the week organizations across the state are distributing free naloxone, or NARCAN, a medicine that rapidly reduces the effects of an opioid overdose by way of injection or nasal spray, according to drugabuse.gov.

Athens-based Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program (SAOP) will be tabling, providing free NARCAN and fentanyl test strips Thursday (today) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Worthington Park, 1 S. Market St.

Free naloxone is also available through other nearby providers, including the Hocking County Health Department via the state’s program Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), 350 OH-664; Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP), 3 Cardaras Drive, Glouster. Harm Reduction Ohio will also mail free NARCAN through online confidential and anonymous orders at www.harmreductionohio.org/get-naloxone/.

The state and county’s observations come at a time of finalizing national efforts to reimburse local governments for damages caused by the “Opioid Epidemic,” allegedly created by pharmaceutical producers and manufacturers.

On Aug. 10, the commissioners signed a resolution to accept the material terms of the statewide OneOhio Subdivision Settlement, which came out of joint negotiations with drug manufacturers and distributors in a lawsuit over the impacts of opioids.

The state is now on the verge of an $808 million settlement, which will be divided up into three portions, per the OhioOhio settlement: 55% to a foundation created to disburse the money and fund programs that benefit Ohioans affected by opioids and/or prevent addiction; 30% for local community recovery programs; and 15% to the state of Ohio, according to a March press release from DeWine’s office.

Hocking County was one of thousands of local governments to join the settlement. According to a report by Ohio Capital Journal, Scioto County was the lone holdout in the settlement, and also one of the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

The commissioners passed a resolution to enter into the lawsuit around this time four years ago. On Aug. 28, 2017, Resolution #18-2017 declared that “the unlawful distribution of prescription pain pills has created a public nuisance in Hocking County and has caused harm to the residents of Hocking County.”

According to the suit, Hocking County Board of Commissioners (Plaintiff) v. AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corporation (Defendants), the county did not seek compensatory damages for death, physical injury to person, emotional distress or physical damage to property.

It did seek damages to “recoup the costs incurred by the county as a result of the nuisances; damages necessary to eliminate the hazard to public health and safety as well abatement of the public nuisance, including both injunctive relief and an abatement fund.”

In other items of business Tuesday, Dickerson shared his experience on a call last week with Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. The call was “geared toward southeastern Ohio and the southern counties,” Dickerson said. He brought county concerns to DeWine, specifically those related to traffic safety.

Dickerson mentioned a public meeting the commissioners had with Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, which serves Hocking County and eight others.

The meeting, which Dickerson described Tuesday as “successful,” discussed two specific intersections, The Logan Daily News previously reported: State Route 374 and U.S. 33, and U.S. 33 and County Road 10 at the Rockbridge GoMart. However, Dickerson said he also brought up Lake Logan Road and State Route 664 to DeWine last Friday.

According to Hocking County data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there were 244 crashes investigated in the county between Jan. 1 and Aug. 29, 2020; this year, between those same dates, there have been 295. In 2019, the county had two fatal crashes, four in 2020 and one this year so far.

During the ODOT meeting last month, Hocking County EMA Director Robert “Bozz” Salizzoni shared data collected from the Hocking County 911 Dispatch. From Jan. 1, 2020 to July 26, 2021, there were 52 incidents at State Route 374 alone. Out of those 52 incidents, 32 were motor vehicle accidents (MVA). From Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019 there was only one MVA. Incidents are anything vehicle-related, such as vehicle fires or erratic driving, he said.

With 4.5 million tourists coming into the Hocking Hills each year — including DeWine and Husted themselves — traffic safety is a top priority for the county, Dickerson said, and the commissioners are working to stay on top of things.

“They’re going to look into this. He guaranteed me — the governor did — that he would address the situation with the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. And I just (really appreciated that),” Dickerson said.

Dickerson said that the three biggest regional issues county leaders discussed on the call were sewer, broadband and water.

The commissioners also heard from the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office, Hocking County Dog Warden Detective David Wright and Hocking County Auditor Ken Wilson regarding dog tag registration.

The county is not changing its tag fee of $15; however, it is looking into offering online dog tag registration in the coming months. The county licenses about 4,500 dogs per year, Deputy Auditor Jeff Hunter said.

The next commissioners meeting will be Thursday (today) at 9:30 a.m. in the Commissioners Chambers at the Hocking County Courthouse, 1 E. Main St. Meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the commissioners’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HockingCommissioners/, where they can also be watched at a later date.

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