The effects of substance abuse and mental illness are claiming lives at a staggering rate.
Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Writer for The Huffington Post, reported that, since 1980, deaths related to alcohol, drugs, and mental illness have “increased by 200 percent or more in over 2,000 U.S. counties.” Gregoire goes on to explain that in various counties throughout Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky the number of deaths due to these factors has increased an astounding 1,000 percent. The worst of these statistics was found in Clermont County, Ohio, where the increase was a shocking 2,206 percent.
Clermont County, which is less than a two hour’s drive from Franklin County, is home to one of Ohio’s worst heroin epidemics. Due to the severity of the heroin abuse and overdose problem that was occurring among residents of the county, a task force was created in an attempt to put an end to the epidemic.
In 2014, heroin overdoses were the single most predominant cause of accidental deaths throughout Clermont County, surpassing even those resulting from fatal car crashes. To combat the ever-growing problem, Clermont County’s Opiate Task Force enacted a four-step plan that was centrally focused on making treatment more readily available for individuals who are suffering from addictions to opioids and other substances.
Unfortunately, the increase in deaths that result from drug overdoses may not be overly shocking to many. These tragedies have reached epidemic proportions, tainting communities throughout Ohio and the rest of the United States. What may come as a surprise, however, is how mental illness has also played a role in causing what would likely otherwise be preventable deaths.
On December 13, 2016, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the results of a study that analyzed trends in mortality rates for major causes of death at the county-level between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 2014. This study demonstrated that mental health disorders and substance use disorders were the cause of 814,391 deaths in this time period. Additionally, the study showed that self-harm (which is often indicative of the presence of mental illness) and interpersonal violence were the cause of 2,049,835 deaths.
The results of this study show the ever-present need for comprehensive mental health and chemical dependency treatment services, not only in the greater Columbus area, but also throughout the rest of Ohio and the United States as a whole. As such, treatment centers in Columbus and throughout Franklin and Clermont Counties must be aware of these startling statistics and place themselves on the front lines of helping to provide solutions to individuals who are struggling with these concerns.
Dr. Christopher Murray, director of University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and one of the authors of the study published by JAMA, noted that the “mortality trends in mental and substance use disorders point to the need for a well-considered response from local and state governments.”
If mental health and chemical dependency treatment professionals step forward, they can play a role in helping to receive that type of response, ultimately getting countless individuals the help that they need.