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Trib editorial: Dip in fatal overdoses a hopeful sign |

Trib editorial: Dip in fatal overdoses a hopeful sign

Kyle Hodges
Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha stands next to autopsy tables in the coroner's office.
Kyle Hodges
Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha stands next to autopsy tables in the coroner's office.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
An overall view of downtown Jeannette looking down Clay Avenue.

A dip in Westmoreland County’s rate of fatal opioid overdoses during 2018’s first two months may well prove to be just a blip. So caution about what it means is in order.

But any basis for hope in the long, grim fight to reverse this epidemic’s steadily mounting death toll is welcome — as motivation to strengthen existing efforts and launch new ones.

Westmoreland Coroner Ken Bacha’s final report for 2017 included the exact number of fatal overdoses projected: 193, another disheartening new record. Heartening, though, was this: From Jan. 1 through March 1, his office investigated 23 drug fatalities — a rate that would see deadly overdoses in the county fall 29 percent, to 138, if it continues throughout 2018.

What’s behind that dip? Mr. Bacha’s unsure but hopes “the county’s task force, prevention, treatment, the availability of Narcan and … a number of significant arrests,” plus greater public awareness, are responsible.

There are other reasons to hope. Fatal overdoses declined last year in Washington and Indiana counties, and the latter also saw a January-February dip. Plus, new efforts are bolstering sharing of information among medical and law-enforcement professionals.

Given opioids’ lethality and ubiquity, nobody should be resting on any laurels yet. The takeaway from this two-month dip in fatal overdoses should be hope fueling determination to redouble anti-addiction efforts and prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those efforts are on the right track.

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