The same week the Ohio Department of Health revealed deaths by unintentional drug overdoses rose to a record high last year in the state, the Delaware General Health District began distributing drugs that can prevent overdose deaths.

The same week the Ohio Department of Health revealed deaths by unintentional drug overdoses rose to a record high last year in the state, the Delaware General Health District began distributing drugs that can prevent overdose deaths.

The district announced late last month it had a limited supply of naloxone kits available to the public. The medication, also known by the brand name Narcan, can block the effects of heroin and other opiates during an overdose.

Joan Bowe, director of nursing and personal health for the district, said the department received 50 doses of naloxone through the Ohio Department of Health's Project DAWN grant program. DAWN stands for Deaths Avoided With Naloxone.

The district joined a coalition of five counties led by Morrow County to seek 300 doses of naloxone. Bowe said Delaware County likely would not have been selected for the grant on its own because of its relatively low overdose rate.

"Collectively, it made for a stronger grant application," she said.

Bowe said the district would not have been able to fund the purchase of the kits, which cost about $75 apiece, without the program's help.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 3,050 people died by unintentional drug overdose in the state in 2015, up from 2,531 in 2014. Twelve of the record total of overdose deaths for the state last year occurred in Delaware County.

In nearby Franklin County, 279 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, up from 196 in 2014.

Bowe said county residents are eligible to receive naloxone from the district if they "are at risk of an opiate overdose or have a friend, relative or coworker who is."

"They just need to call the health (district) and we'll have them speak with a nurse and schedule an appointment," she said.

People who receive the medication from the district also will receive basic training and information about it, as well as related topics such as rescue breathing and 911 services.

Those who are interested in receiving a naloxone kit may call the district at 740-203-2040 to schedule an appointment. Bowe said some personal information about clients who request the medication will be kept on file with the district in case of recall.

Bowe said the district dispensed the first dose of the medication to a client Aug. 25.

"Hearing the story and concern of that person made us feel good to give them some tool ... to help their friend or loved one," she said.

While critics might say naloxone can lessen the fears of negative consequences of drug use among addicts, Bowe said it gives them another chance to seek treatment and other forms of help.

Although the number of overdose deaths rose last year, state officials in a recent press release said signs point to some success in the battle against the root causes of opiate addiction.

"In the midst of this growing opiate epidemic, we are seeing positive indications that our aggressive efforts are working to reduce opioid prescription pain medications available for abuse," Dr. Mary DiOrio, Ohio Department of Health medical director, said in a statement. "There were 81 million fewer opioid doses dispensed to Ohio patients since the state took initiatives to curb opiates, and the number of people who try to get controlled substances from multiple doctors has dramatically decreased.

"Also, the percentage of prescription opioid-related deaths compared to all unintentional overdose deaths declined in Ohio for the fourth straight year."

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick