By EILEEN MCCLORY
Overdose deaths in Hancock County have nearly doubled compared with recent years, and the number could still rise after more reports of overdoses are confirmed.
Hancock Public Health said 27 overdose deaths have been confirmed for 2017, and six other potential overdose deaths are awaiting autopsy confirmation.
In 2016, 15 Hancock County deaths were ruled as accidental overdoses. In 2015, there were 16 overdose deaths.
So far in 2018, the Blanchard Valley Hospital emergency room has seen 58 overdoses, according to Hancock Public Health. Deputy Health Commissioner Barb Wilhelm said no overdose deaths have been confirmed so far in 2018, but 11 deaths since the beginning of the year are awaiting a final determination. Hancock Public Health doesn’t count a death as an overdose until a coroner’s ruling is released.
Toxicology test results are taking longer to obtain because of the volume of deaths related to the opioid epidemic, so coroner rulings sometimes take six months or more to be issued.
Hancock County contracts with Lucas County to conduct autopsies, as do most northwestern Ohio counties.
The majority of Hancock County’s overdose deaths in 2017 were related to fentanyl and more potent carfentanil in some form, according to coroner’s reports. Fentanyl and carfentanil are considered among the deadliest forms of opioids.
Hancock County health workers also saw plenty of non-fatal overdoses last year. Overdose visits to Blanchard Valley Hospital climbed to 297 last year.