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Ohio’s plan for targeted naloxone distribution raises questions

Ohio’s plan to launch a targeted deployment of naloxone is being questioned by one of the state’s partners that says it does not distribute the drug to communities most in need (Source: “Ohio's plan to distribute an anti-OD drug triggers questions, claims of racial bias,” Cincinnati Enquirer via Columbus Dispatch, May 12).

The idea in sending 60,000 doses of the antidote for an opioid overdose to 23 counties is to get ahead of a usual summertime rise in overdoses. Yet one of its partners in distributing the naloxone questions the equity of the plan, calling it racially biased.

Harm Reduction Ohio says the state’s plan excludes some areas that have high overdose death rates for Black Ohioans. It also charges the plan gives an insufficient amount of the drug to rural areas.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will use $2.5 million in general revenue for naloxone to go to the 23 counties it identified with 80% of overdose deaths in Ohio. The plan, announced May 5 with RecoveryOhio and the Ohio Department of Health, included a list of ZIP codes in the counties "demonstrating the highest need for enhanced overdose reversal supplies among residents."

The state's analysis used overdose death counts, hospital emergency department overdose visits and population counts to help figure out where to deploy naloxone, officials said.

Harm Reduction Ohio, though, provided a list of the ZIP codes that had the most Black overdose deaths per capita from 2018-2020 because of a growing rate of overdose deaths among people who are Black. The death rate comes from an analysis of Ohio Health Department death data from 2018-2020, done for Harm Reduction Ohio by Orman Hall, a former drug policy adviser to Gov. John Kasich.