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Cabell overdose rates continue to decline

May 3, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Cabell County’s overdose totals have decreased in seven of the past eight months, falling to just 62 overdose reports in April, according to records logged by Cabell County EMS.

The April 2018 total—an average of two per day—is the lowest number of overdoses in a single month in more than two years, since 51 were reported in January 2016. By comparison, 174 overdoses were reported in April 2017.

“We could have never anticipated these numbers a few months ago,” said Connie Priddy, Cabell County EMS compliance officer and coordinator for Huntington’s Quick Response Team program.

First responders first noticed a decline in emergency calls in September, when 167 overdoses were reported that month, compared to

195 in August 2017, the highest single-month record. Overdoses gradually became less frequent over the following months: 139 in October, 115 in November, 118 in December, 113 in January, 90 in February (the first sub-100 month since July 2016) and 86 in March.

Cabell County has averaged just over 2.9 overdose reports per day in 2018. Should that pace continue, the county will record 1,067 overdoses by the end of the year.

Cabell County suffered 1,831 overdoses in 2017, 1,217 in 2016 and 480 in 2015.

“These past few months have definitely painted a trend we have not seen before,” Priddy said.

No defined cause for the decline has been established, though Priddy noted only 24 overdoses had been reported since April 17, the day of “Operation Saigon Sunset” in Huntington, when federal, state and local law enforcement targeted more than 90 individuals and struck a major takedown of the Peterson drug trafficking organization that had operated in the area for years.

“We cannot directly attribute it to that, but it’s certainly something that can get credit,” Priddy said.

Although a singular cause will likely never be underlined, she added that it’s likely a combination of community efforts, such as the Quick Response Team launched in December to personally visit each overdose victim and refer them to treatment, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department’s Harm Reduction Program, the Huntington Police Department’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program and Marshall University’s growing addiction-related initiatives.

The public’s increased access to and availability of naloxone, the drug administered to reverse an overdose, may also be limiting the calls EMS must take.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to look back in retrospect and be able to say it was one thing. I think it’s everything,” Priddy said.

While it’s possible overdose totals might spike or plateau in the following months, Priddy said the downward trend is expected to continue in June.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

CABELL COUNTY MONTHLY OVERDOSE TOTALS

The number of overdose calls per month in Cabell County grew over the past several years but has declined in the past eight months.

2016

January: 51

February: 75

March: 71

April: 74

May: 66

June: 66

July: 97

August: 114

September: 139

October: 131

November: 158

December: 175

TOTAL: 1,217

2017

January: 165

February: 153

March: 134

April: 174

May: 181

June: 146

July: 144

August: 195

September: 167

October: 139

November: 115

December: 118

TOTAL: 1,831

2018

January: 113

February: 90

March: 86

April: 62

Source: Cabell County Emergency

Medical Services