The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 1:00 am

State: Trips to ER for opioids surge

Visits for non-fatal cases up 60%

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Emergency room visits for non-fatal opioid overdoses rose by nearly 60 percent in Indiana during a recent five-year period, to almost 3,000 visits statewide, according to a new report from the state Department of Health.

The report shows deadly overdoses rose by an average of 3.5 percent each year from 2011 to 2015, peaking at over 270 deaths in 2015, the Indianapolis Star reported. At least 365 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, according to health department statistics.

At 18.2 per 100,000 population, Allen County is below the state rate of 35.9 for non-fatal emergency room visits due to overdoses over the five-year period, according to the report.

Most northeast Indiana counties are far below the state rate, except for Huntington County, which reported 38.5 visits per 100,000 population during the period.

On an annual basis, Allen County had a large jump in non-fatal visits from 13.9 per 100,000 in 2014, to 30.9 in 2015, according to the report. The state rate for 2015 was 45 per 100,000. 

The report also found that soft-tissue infections from intravenous drug use more than doubled statewide in the five-year period. The state rate was 3.7 per 100,000 population. Allen County was below that with a rate of 2.1 for the period.

State health officials said the county-by-county report can help officials find better ways to address the drug problems locally.

“It's very telling to be able to put the data together in one place,” said Pam Pontones, deputy health commissioner. “I think that really helps to tell the story.

“You can think you have an idea of what may be happening, but it's very helpful and more objective to look at data points.”

Pontones said the data can give officials a “snapshot” of what their county looks like.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he hears about Indiana's drug problem everywhere in the state.

“This is the one issue where everyone wants to help. They just want to know how,” he said.

Jim McClelland, whom Holcomb appointed to coordinate Indiana's response to the opioid epidemic, is expected to issue his first report Thursday.

Ron Shawgo of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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