RELEASE: How An Ohio City Turned the Tide on Opioid Deaths

Washington, D.C. — For the better part of a decade, Dayton, Ohio, had one of the highest opioid death rates in the country. In the past year, Dayton has reversed that trend. In 2018, overdose deaths were half that of the previous year.

To do this, Dayton and the surrounding Montgomery County completely overhauled their response to the opioid crisis. They employed a number of innovative and sometime controversial tactics, while finding a way to break through much of the bureaucratic red tape that had previously hampered their response to the crisis.

A new report co-produced by the city of Dayton and the Center for American Progress, titled “A Community of Recovery: Dayton, Ohio’s Compassionate, Collective Approach to the Opioid Crisis,” examines how Dayton was able to reverse the tide of opioid deaths. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D) is also a member of CAP’s Mayors for Smart on Crime, a network of city leaders committed to fair, just, proportional, data-driven, and comprehensive public safety and criminal justice solutions.

“We are so glad to be working with the Center for American Progress to share what Dayton has done to reduce stigma and combat addiction in our community,” said Mayor Whaley. “The lessons we have learned are hard-fought, and I hope this report can help other communities learn from our process of trial and error.”

“What Dayton has done is remarkable,” said Ed Chung, vice president for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, who grew up in the Dayton suburbs. “Dayton has shown that the opioid crisis is not hopeless and that there are actionable steps that cities can take to reduce deaths and help people along the path to recovery.”

The report focuses on the bold steps that the city and county took themselves to decrease deaths, many of which were—and still are—considered provocative in other American cities:

  • Reducing the harmful effects of substance abuse through naloxone use and needle exchange programs
  • Rapid and targeted data collection and use
  • Collaboration between agencies and organizations
  • A law enforcement system focused on prevention and support—not criminalization
  • Building a community of recovery and support
  • Providing access to treatment

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org or 202-495-3682.