State decisions that hurt our counties

A few weeks ago, Ohio Department of Health released the drug overdose death statistics for 2016. As expected, the numbers increased yet again.

But, I realized the numbers are different than what we collect at the local level. The difference was pretty considerable. In fact, it was a 40 percent difference.

Every county in the state would like to have a low number of overdose deaths or, even better, to have none. These numbers represent lives that we lost. These numbers represent many family members who continue to grieve. There are children without a parent, and sisters without a brother. These families will never be the same.

So why are the statistics released by ODH very different than the numbers collected at the local level? Because, if someone overdoses in our community and is transported to a hospital in Lucas County (Toledo) where they die, the death will be considered a Lucas County death and a Lucas County overdose statistic. Also, another cause of death may be present. For example, drug use may contribute to a death that is primarily caused by something else, such as hypothermia.

An important thing to know is that the state is making funding decisions to provide counties with resources for treatment services based on the ODH numbers. Just in the past year, the state received a considerable amount of federal funds to fight the drug epidemic. The state decided to allocate funding to counties with the most need, based on the ODH overdose death numbers.

Unfortunately, Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties received zero funding. So, when you read some of the federal or state press releases stating how much money is coming to Ohio to fight the drug epidemic, please remember that in some cases, our rural communities (Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties) received none of the funds.

We’ll make sure to encourage our legislators to not only approve funding in the budget, but also to earmark how the funds are distributed between the 88 counties in Ohio.

Mircea Handru, executive director,

Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties