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  • Fentanyl, Cafentanil, and Cocaine Drive Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths in 2016

    by User Not Found | Aug 31, 2017

    COLUMBUS – Ohio’s opioid epidemic continued to evolve in 2016 with stronger drugs driving an increase in unintentional overdose deaths, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The report shows a sharp rise in overdose deaths involving the opioid fentanyl, the emergence of more deadly fentanyl-related drugs like carfentanil, and indications that cocaine is now being used with fentanyl and other opiates. The report also contains some promising news – the fewest prescription opioid overdose deaths since 2009.

    “The continued increase in opioid-related deaths reaffirms that we still have much work to do, but Ohio is seeing important progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse and prescription-related overdose deaths,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and interim medical director of ODH. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use later on.”

    Overdose deaths increased from 3,050 in 2015 to 4,050 last year, and fentanyl and related drugs were involved in 58.2 percent of them. By comparison, fentanyl was involved in 37.9 percent of overdose deaths in 2015, 19.9 percent in 2014, 4 percent in 2013 and 3.9 percent 2012. Illegally produced fentanyl can be hundreds of times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil and other related drugs can be even stronger.


    With the emergence of carfentanil in 2016, the fentanyl-related drug was involved in 340 overdose deaths, most of them during the second half of the year. The number of cocaine-related overdose deaths increased from 685 in 2015 to 1,109 in 2016 – a 61.9 percent increase. Of cocaine-related overdose deaths, 80.2 percent also involved an opiate, and 55.8 percent involved fentanyl and related opiates in particular.


    Of all unintentional drug overdose deaths, the percentage of prescription opioid-related deaths declined for the fifth straight year in 2016, and the number of such deaths declined 15.4 percent from 667 in 2015 to 564 in 2016, the fewest since 2009. Opioid prescribing in Ohio declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2016, according to the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Between 2012 and 2016, the total number of opioids dispensed to Ohio patients decreased by 162 million doses or 20.4 percent. There was a 78.2 percent decrease in the number of people engaged in the practice of “doctor shopping” for controlled substances since 2012.

    This progress corresponds with efforts to reduce the prescription opioid supply available for diversion and abuse by stepping up law enforcement efforts, working with medical professionals to establish opioid prescribing guidelines, and empowering prescribers and pharmacists to prevent opioid abuse using Ohio’s prescription drug monitoring system, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS).

    Ohio is investing about $1 billion each year to help communities battle the scourge of drug abuse and addiction at the local level, including significant funding to help address treatment, prevention and law enforcement. Those resources include:

    • Helping communities purchase the life-saving drug naloxone
    • Investing in specialized drug courts that link offenders with treatment
    • Providing safe, stable housing to help drug-addicted Ohioans recover
    • Increasing funding for individuals needing addiction and behavioral health treatment
    • Enforcing Ohio’s drug laws to prevent the illegal distribution of powerful synthetic opioids

    Ohio’s new two-year state budget includes an additional $170 million to support local and state efforts to combat opioid abuse and overdose deaths. At this year’s State of the State Address, Gov. John R. Kasich asked the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. The Third Frontier Commission approved this request in May and will announce the first funded projects in December.

    The state also is surging resources into communities hardest hit by Ohio’s opioid epidemic.

    The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will receive up to $26 million a year during the next two years through the federal 21st Century Cures Act to help fight Ohio’s opioid epidemic at the state and local levels. The funding will help support medication-assisted treatment; prevention; screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment; recovery supports; workforce devel­opment; and addressing secondary trauma among first responders (EMS personnel, firefighters, law enforcement, etc.).

    ODH has been awarded a four-year federal grant totaling $6.6 million to combat prescription drug overdoses. ODH has awarded grants to 14 high-burden counties to implement comprehensive prescription drug overdose prevention programs focusing on coalition development, healthcare prescriber education and healthcare system changes for safer opioid prescribing practices, and increasing access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone.

    In addition, members of the Governor’s Opiate Action Team have met with local leaders in 20 Ohio communities that have the highest burden of drug overdoses to ensure that communities are mounting a coordinated response and taking advantage of the tools and resources that the state has made available. Promising local practices were identified during these visits and have helped inform the development of an updated Action Guide to Address Opioid Abuse as a resource for Ohio’s communities.

    The complete ODH report on 2016 drug overdose deaths is available here. A detailed list of Ohio’s comprehensive efforts combatting opioid abuse and overdose deaths is here.

  • Van Wert North breaks ground

    by User Not Found | Aug 28, 2017

    Kirsten Barnhart, DHI Media News Editor

    Wednesday, August 02, 2017 12:03 AM

    VAN WERT – The groundbreaking for Van Wert Health North, a new outpatient and ambulatory facility that Van Wert County Hospital announced in May, took place Monday morning.

    The 19,000-square-foot center will be located in Towne Center, directly east of Goodwill, and will allow patients access to a walk-in clinic, family medicine, physical medicine, rehabilitation, occupational health, a specialist clinic, laboratory, and imaging services all at a more affordable cost.

    “There’s a couple of reasons why this going to be great for the whole area: it’s high visibility and it’s really accessible,” said President and CEO of Van Wert County Hospital Jim Pope.

    The facility will be near U.S. Route 30, U.S. Route 127 and Marsh Road where it will be able to be visible by a large amount of people from any direction.

    “It is owned by the hospital, but it is not a hospital-based service,” noted Pope. “That means we can bill at a lower rate to patients and we can work with patients too.”

    “The cost of health care continues to rise,” continued Pope. “We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to create an environment where patients can come and get health care in a moderately affordable environment?’”

    Pope noted that the hospital chose to make the facility a walk-in clinic rather than an urgent care to keep costs low. A walk-in clinic can treat a lot of the same things a urgent care can, while being more affordable.

    One of the most major services that Van Wert Health North will offer is the region’s largest open MRI. The MRI will feature a 1.2-tesla advanced high-field magnet, which is the strongest open air scanner available. The MRI will be able to accommodate patients up to 600 pounds and will be more convenient for doctors and patients.

    “If you’re claustrophobic at all, this open MRI just gets rid of all of that,” said Pope. “It just takes that fear from you.”

    Pope noted that the difference in this MRI and other MRI’s in the area is quality.

    “It’s like looking at abstract art versus a picture,” said Pope of the new MRI’s quality.

    Surrounding area hospitals have magnets that are .6-tesla. Van Wert Health North’s MRI will show much clearer scans that will allow for doctors to see the photo with much higher visibility.

    “Their magnet is abstract art, our magnet is a picture,” noted Pope. “The doctor doesn’t have to use their imagination, they can read it, they can see it, they can point it out to you.”

    The facility is currently out for bid but construction is expected to begin within the next few weeks. The plan is to have the facility open by June of 2018.

    The hospital hopes to continue growing with renovation plans for the Van Wert County Hospital in the future. Pope stated that the hospital has seen positive growth at the current facility noting that the percent of those who use the hospital and are likely to recommend it has grown 8 percentage points since last fall.

    “This whole concept of what we’re creating for the patient is an affordable, but high-tech environment, very visible, very accessible, and very affordable,” said Pope. “We want to be the first choice for health care within the region.”

    Those involved in the “first dig” during the ground breaking were Stacy Adam, Executive Director of the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corp, Dr. Wray, Chief Medical Officer of Van Wert County Hospital, Gary Clay, President of the Board of Trustees of Van Wert County Hospital, Jim Pope, President and CEO of Van Wert County Hospital, Dr. Hoehn, Chief of Staff of Van Wert County Hospital, Jerry Mazur, Mayor of the City of Van Wert, and Todd Wolfrum, Chairman of the Van Wert County Commissioners.

  • Ohio Reports First Human West Nile Virus Case in 2017; ODH Urges Precautions to Prevent Mosquito-Borne Diseases

    by User Not Found | Aug 16, 2017

    COLUMBUS – Ohio’s first human West Nile virus case in 2017 is being reported by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). A 44-year-old man from Clermont County is recovering from the West Nile virus infection and did not require hospitalization. Clermont County Public Health will conduct an environmental assessment in the affected area and implement mosquito control measures.

    This year, 29 Ohio counties have reported West Nile virus activity reported in mosquitoes collected as part of statewide surveillance. Last year, ODH reported 17 human West Nile virus cases.

    The primary way people get West Nile virus is through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not have any symptoms. About one in five people who become infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection.

    “This time of year, we could possibly see a growing number of human cases of West Nile virus infection and positive mosquito samples throughout the state,” said ODH State Epidemiologist and Bureau Chief of Infectious Disease Sietske de Fijter. “This case serves to remind Ohioans that they should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites in order to prevent mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 states have reported more than 200 combined human West Nile virus cases so far in 2017, as well as West Nile virus infections in mosquitoes and the birds who infect them.

    Here are some tips to avoid mosquito bites:

    • If you are outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, be sure to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks.
    • Wear light-colored clothing, which is less attractive to mosquitoes.
    • Use EPA-registered mosquito repellent and follow the label directions.
    • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

    Here are some tips to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home:

    • Eliminate standing water.
    • Empty or remove water-holding containers, such as buckets, unused flower pots and bird baths.
    • Make sure all roof gutters are clean and draining properly.
    • Keep child wading pools empty and on their sides when not being used.

    Learn more about mosquitoes and West Nile virus on the ODH website at

  • Be Prepared for Back-to-School; Get Your Children Vaccinated

    by User Not Found | Aug 08, 2017
    COLUMBUS – Summer is almost over and that means it’s time for parents to begin thinking about back-to-school season. Along with the back-to-school necessities such as folders and backpacks, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) wants to remind parents to make sure their kids are up-to-date on their vaccines against serious diseases.
    To emphasize the importance of vaccinations, and to make sure that children are protected with all the immunizations they need, ODH is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.
    “When parents are thinking about their back to school checklists, vaccines should be at the top of the list,” said ODH State Epidemiologist and Bureau Chief of Infectious Diseases Sietske de Fijter. “Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by CDC’s immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health as well as the health of classmates and the community.”
    Unvaccinated children are at an increased risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps and rubella. They also may spread diseases, like pertussis, which are serious or potentially life-threatening for high-risk individuals such as infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and others who have weakened immune systems due to health conditions.
    “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check with your doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs, and when,” said de Fijter.
    This fall will be the second school year that the new meningococcal vaccine requirement is in effect under Ohio Revised Code. All incoming seventh graders must have one dose of the meningococcal vaccine, and all incoming twelfth graders must have a second dose of the vaccine.
    ODH is currently running a back-to-school public awareness campaign that features radio and television ads that you can hear and see across the state. Parents should check with their child’s doctor, school or local health department to learn more about specific requirements.
    For more information on the meningococcal vaccine and other vaccination requirements, visit         
  • Van Wert County Hospital Unveils Plan for New Outpatient and Ambulatory Center

    by Haley Thomas | May 23, 2017

    Van Wert, OH – Today, Van Wert County Hospital announces they will soon begin construction of a sizable outpatient and ambulatory center. Construction is expected to begin in late summer of 2017 and be completed by early summer 2018. The new facility will allow Van Wert County Hospital to continue to meet the healthcare needs of the northwest Ohio region and ensures residents have access to the highest quality of care.

    The new facility, Van Wert Health North, will be conveniently located at Towne Center, directly east of Goodwill Industries International, Inc. The nearly 19,000 square-foot facility will give patients access to a walk-in clinic, family medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, occupational health, a specialist clinic, laboratory, and imaging services, which will include open MRI, CT scan, and X-ray capabilities.

    “Access to high-quality health care services is a crucial aspect of a thriving community. The facility will combine the exceptional level of care and dedicated staff with the latest innovations and advancements in healthcare,” said Gary Clay, President of the Van Wert County Hospital Board of Trustees. “This new state-of-the-art facility will truly strengthen our community and help people and families to live healthier lives.”

    Van Wert Health North will have the region’s largest open MRI with a 1.2-tesla advanced high-field magnet, which is the strongest open air scanner available.  “This is excellent news for patients and their families because it provides a more comfortable setting for patients,” said Jim Pope, President and CEO of Van Wert County Hospital. “The open MRI does not have a tube, so patients will be able to see on all sides, which eliminates that ‘closed-in’ claustrophobic feeling that some people experience in a closed scanner.” The open MRI will have the ability to accommodate patients up to 600 pounds.

    The walk-in clinic will help people with medical issues that aren’t quite an emergency, but need to be seen that day such as abdominal pain, allergies/allergic reactions, animal bites, asthma, bladder infections, ear infection, strep throat, strains and sprains, and other non-emergency medical issues. “We wanted to provide patients with convenient hours to ensure families get the care they deserve when they need it,” said Pope. The walk-in clinic will function as an extension of a patient’s own primary care provider, whether the patient lives in our community or is visiting from another part of the country. 

    “This is a milestone day for Van Wert County. Van Wert County Hospital’s commitment to the community has been unwavering and this exciting project will provide greater access to healthcare for families in our county. I’m thrilled this project will also strengthen our local economy by creating good-paying jobs for several area residents,” stated Mayor Jerry Mazur. 

    Van Wert Health North will be part of Van Wert County Hospital. The outpatient and ambulatory center is being designed from the ground up by Design Collaborative, Inc.