JEFFERSONVILLE, In. (WDRB NEWS) -- In 2018, Clark County recorded the lowest number of overdose-related deaths it’s seen in five years.
The results show the county's strategies to tackle the opioid crisis are working. Officials say they are chipping away at the opioid epidemic. It’s a crisis in communities that’s taking lives at alarming rate.
"There's a whole generation of grandparents that are raising their grandchildren now because they've lost their parents,” Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said.
In 2016, Clark County recorded 89 overdose-related deaths. In 2018, that number was slashed to 50, the lowest number since 2013.
"It's usually young people who have a lot of life ahead of them so it's a devastating thing,” Yazel said. “Even 50 are too many but anything we can do to keep people alive is a positive."
Yazel also works in the emergency department at Clark Memorial Hospital and says ER visits for heroin-related issues there went down 40 percent last year. That’s another sign efforts to fight the opioid crisis are working.
"We have to set the system up so that the patients fail the system, the system doesn't fail them,” Yazel said.
The health department's efforts are supported by a local community movement called Clark County Cares. Through this outreach, more people in Clark County are educated about the opioid epidemic and what it will take to tackle it.
"There's so many steps that someone can fall through the cracks and really have to make sure that we're helping people on every step of that process,” Yazel said.
The county's syringe services program has also seen great results. Hundreds of people visit the health department to exchange syringes. But while they're there, they receive other services like medical testing, treatment, and immunizations. Nearly 400 people were referred for substance abuse treatment last year.
"We've gotten numerous patients into recovery through the program so those are all things we are proud of,” Yazel said.
While Clark County is seeing these improved outcomes, Yazel knows there's still a lot of work to do.
"It's just devastating to the community and we still have a very long way to go,” He said. “It's far from over."
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