727 opioid overdose fatalities recorded in 2017; highest in Cuyahoga County's history

727 opioid overdose fatalities recorded in 2017; highest in Cuyahoga County's history
File photo. (Source: Facebook)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A new report from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office shows the amount of people dying from opioid overdoses is slowing, but is still up from the year before.

In 2017, 727 people in the county died because of an opioid overdose-- that number includes legal prescription overdoses.

"The evolving opioid epidemic has proven to be complex and multifaceted. Last year, we lost 727 victims to a drug overdose – the most we've ever lost in Cuyahoga County's history," said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.

In 2016, the county had 666 drug overdose deaths which means from 2016 to 2017 there was a 9 percent increase.

In 2015, 307 people died from overdoses, which represents and 80 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

So while everyone agrees the amount of people dying from drug overdoses is still too high, the rate of deaths from year to year has slowed considerably.

"It is heartening to see a relative decline in deaths towards the end of the year, but we are still a long way from the end of the crisis," said Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson said.

Dr. Gilson's office says there are a number of factors that appear to be helping in slowing down of deaths including including a reduction of carfentanil in the illicit drug supply, the increased availability of Naloxone, addiction treatment, and prevention education.

"This is a human tragedy," Budish said. "And this crisis impacts our services in many different ways from our jails to the number of children in foster care. We will continue to attack this epidemic through treatment and prevention. And we have filed a lawsuit to hold those pharmaceutical companies accountable for the damage they have caused."

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