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ASHTABULA COUNTY, OHIO

(Including Cities: ASHTABULA, CONNEAUT, GENEVA)

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       Ashtabula County, Ohio, a rural and lakeside area of the state, is blessed with numerous natural resources and qualities. Quiet but important, its storied history and crucial contributions furnished generations of people with a unique culture, character, and flavor. As with most of the region, sadly, too many in the population and in leadership have struggled over the past decade with confronting an overbearing substance addiction and overdose challenge. Fueled by a national drug epidemic, and massive shifts in industry and culture affecting many parts of the U.S. Ohioans are increasingly in need of professional Addiction Treatment services to help them regain freedom and stability.

Encouragingly, there is hope for men and their families suffering from Drug and Alcohol misuse. Understanding the nature of the issue, its effects, and importantly available solutions, as it relates uniquely to each local, will help equip them with relevant information, as they consider and plan their journey to recovery.

Here we explore some of the general as well as the more specific facts and figures, providing a perspective surrounding Ashtabula County and the addiction issues it faces.

 

Ashtabula County: About

Founded in 1808 along the most northeastern part of Ohio, Ashtabula county -Ohio’s largest county, has been an integral part of state and national history for centuries. With its north border situated on Lake Erie, Ashtabula’s identity and history is strongly interwoven with this important geographic feature. From fishing to transporting of coal, ore and goods from across the region, up until today, to serving as an integral part of the Underground Railroad and of Anti-slavery resistance. The very name “Ashtabula”, which is derived from the Native language, is said to imply a bounty of fish.

With almost 30 miles of shore-line with one of the Great Lakes linking the county to regional ports in America and also Canada, as well as its proximity to Pennsylvania and the Northeast region of the U.S., Ashtabula evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries to be a central point of manufacturing and shipping. As companies, ports and factories increasingly dotted the county’s landscape, the economy soared and the population increased, going from about 50,000 residents in 1870 to almost 100,000 in 1970.

Ashtabula attracted many early Americans as well as immigrants seeking opportunities. The culture of life and business in the region along with the weather and climate appealed to many Northern European immigrants throughout its history. Much of the current population is descended from the many immigrants that worked for many decades alongside the original residents to build and expand this wonderful county and its infrastructure. ‘Bula -as it fondly referred to often by the county’s residents and neighbors, always was and remains a working class, culture loving part of Ohio.

Typical of a rural mid-western county, Ashtabula is abounding in large lush fields and farms. Dozens of covered bridges span many of the hundreds of rivers and streams which run through it, spreading like veins across the entire area. Cutting through the city of Ashtabula in the northern section is the Ashtabula River which flows into Lake Erie, and notably directly into the shipping ports section of the Lake created around the river mouth. At Andover to the east the large Pymatuning Reservoir sits on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Besides boasting the largest and smallest covered bridges in the U.S. and being home to a number of important factories including some producing military and essential building equipment, Ashtabula County has many vineyards and a full grape industry which also contains some popular, award winning wineries. The city of Geneva even presents a highly unique annual fair titled “Geneva Grape Jamboree”, celebrating the region’s grape growing character. With the decline of manufacturing and industry centers in the U.S. over the past two decades, Ashtabula has also seen a significant shift in workforce participation and occupations. The population count is no longer increasing, but even shrinking, albeit very slowly, since its peak of 100,000 a few decades ago.

In a State of Struggle -Ohio Substance Addiction Crisis

While Ashtabula is indeed an important, unique and charming area of Ohio, abundant in goods, unfortunately it is also struggling with the substance addiction issues facing the United States in general and Ohio in particular. And whereas Ohio statewide is in the grips of a devastating wave of drug and alcohol addiction, and the tragic overdoses that increasingly accompany it, not all counties fare the same, although broadly almost all do indeed mirror more or less the state’s general average.

Ohio’s overdose death statistics help portray a vivid view of the extent and the impact of the substance abuse occurring in the state, particularly with regard to illicit drugs.

Since the year 2016, Ohio has been averaging over 4,300 deaths from drug overdoses per year. After trend breaking decreases in levels in 2018 and 2019, the Pandemic years of 2020-2021 saw huge increases, with 2020 levels jumping almost 25% from the year before (although not much higher than the highest year on record before it, 2017).

During 2020, Ohio was among a handful of States reporting its highest number of drug related deaths ever recorded: 5,017 (not including an additional 100+ intentional overdose deaths). That number only continued to increase in 2021 albeit to a smaller extent. Predictably, the U.S. as a whole saw a staggering increase in general drug use during the Pandemic -beginning in 2020- recording 15% more drug users over pre-pandemic levels. And the resulting overdose deaths jumped to a historical, devastating high of 91,800 deaths nationwide, 25% higher than recent levels.

While Pandemic era numbers or levels tend to skew clear trends, there is no doubt that Ohio is and has been in the grips of an addiction crisis of epic proportions. Ohio addiction trends that seemed to have been leveling out a bit for a couple of years pre-pandemic, obscure the fact that those levels were still severely elevated -double the levels of just a few years prior. Beyond that, the recent Pandemic induced levels are most likely to remain to a large extent.

As the U.S. continues to struggle with an ever growing wave of synthetic opioid availability since 2013, and the subsequent sky-rocketing death rates, some States are faring worse than others regarding availability, vulnerability, and the resulting overdoses from these extremely addictive and deadly substances. Ohio is unfortunately among the top five states when ranked for overdose deaths, and has the regrettable distinction of having some of the worst counties -drug abuse wise- in the entire Country. The state is in the drug trafficking corridor which feeds drugs arriving at the U.S. southern border across the Midwest, and as it relates to Ohio particularly, serving up the illegal contraband to the Northeast region, and dropping plenty off in the state itself along the way.

Ashtabula’s Drug & Alcohol Addiction Crisis in Numbers

Ashtabula County, while not as bad as some counties in the south of Ohio, still ranks #34 in the order of worst for Ohio’s almost 90 counties. After an uneven overdose death rate during the past decade, ranging from 15 deaths a year to 39, and averaging 28 deaths per year between 2015 and 2019, the county recorded a record 40 overdose deaths during 2020 – an almost 50% increase over the average, plus an additional 205 nonfatal overdoses. As with most of Ohio, Ashtabula’s overdose deaths are almost exclusively unintentional, stemming from a catastrophic flood of toxic Fentanyl being added to various drugs in lethal amounts all across the country, and currently accounting for a full 80% of Ohio’s drug overdose deaths.

The alcohol abuse picture for the county is similarly troubling. As of 2019, about 25% of ‘Bulans were “binge” drinkers, and 5% admitted to “heavy” drinking, higher than the state’s overall percentage. Within Ashtabula county, the cities of Geneva and Ashtabula (city) had an even higher rate with 39% and 31%, respectively, binge drinking.

Ohio suffers 5,000 alcohol related deaths yearly on average. And though the death rate from alcohol is difficult to assess on the county and city levels, the devastation of excessive and unbalanced use of alcohol can be gleaned from its peripheral effects: Over 6% of all vehicle crashes in Ashtabula county annually are due to the driver being alcohol impaired. Statewide, 85% of drivers killed in crashes are found to be with elevated alcohol levels. And more than 500 Ohioans, on average, die every year due to alcohol or drug related causes (other than actual overdoses) . Liquor sales have been steadily increasing in Ashtabula county during the past few years, and in 2020 alcohol sales increased by more than 10%. Indeed, every year a few hundred ‘Bulans are diagnosed with an alcohol SUD (Substance Use Disorder).

Covid-19 & Recent Substance Use Developments & Stats

The Covid-19 Pandemic strongly impacted Ashtabula. As one survey done during 2020 of county residents found, 10% of the population admitted to using substances, and an additional 4.5% admitting to misusing pain reliever pills at any given month during that year. The county’s poverty rate in 2020 was 33% higher than the state’s, with the unemployment rate being substantially higher as well.

More recently, from 2020 to 2022, Ohio has seen a surge in the use of meth (Methamphetamine), and related overdoses, with the meth increasingly found to include high levels of Fentanyl. Meth accounted for 26% of drug deaths in 2021, up from 15% in 2018. The substance is often trafficked from Akron, Ohio into the county, and Ashtabula has a higher amount of meth use than the state average. According to OSHP statistics, meth seizures statewide increased a staggering 436% for the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020. As one DEA Special Agent observed, the quantities of meth being encountered in Ohio are typically seen only during drug seizures at the southern border.

Addressing the Addiction Issue

The numbers and stats indeed paint a grim picture of Ashtabula’s addiction crisis, however, one important final statistic brings into focus an even more disappointing data point: Most of those suffering from substance use are not receiving the treatment that they need. And 53% of those surveyed said they looked for but couldn’t find treatment.

Among its efforts to address this issue facing the county, Ashtabula county provides an important and friendly community substance use resource at www.ashtabulamhrs.org with guidance, support, news and resources relating to substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The county is also part of the more recently composed “Northeast Ohio Collaborative of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Boards”, consisting of six Northeast Ohio counties collaborating on strategy, awareness and services relating to addiction and mental health.  

Still, Northeast Ohio hosts only a small few Inpatient or Residential Addiction Treatment facilities, the highest rated and the most successful among them being Prosperity Haven Treatment Center, located immediately outside Ashtabula county in nearby Hambden/Chardon -just a ten minutes drive west on Rt. 6.

Addiction Recovery Inpatient, PHP, Outpatient Rehab Nearby

Fortunately for Ashtabula residents, Prosperity Haven Treatment Center a high-quality rehab facility, is well equipped and has a superb record for successfully treating addiction, providing a full continuum of care in our homelike serene facility located on 7.5 acres of land, to a limited group of men at any given time. Our highly skilled staff use the most advanced techniques available to create individually tailored treatment programs, as they personally guide and help every single resident overcome his addiction as well as address his underlying emotional or mental causes with Dual Diagnosis, enabling him to achieve a real, lasting recovery.

Are you or someone you love struggling with addiction in Ashtabula (including Ashtabula, Conneaut, Geneva, and Jefferson)? Do you perhaps need help from professionals to rid yourself of drug or alcohol abuse? Are you looking for a compassionate, high-rated program nearby that can help by using a wide range of individualized treatments? If so, contact the experts at Prosperity Haven to learn more about all your options, and for any of your questions.

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