Jefferson County sees 'alarming’ increase in drug overdoses

Updated: Jun. 8, 2020 at 3:12 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - We’re only a week into June, but it has already been a deadly month for drug overdoses in Jefferson County.

County Public Health Service said 2 people died over the weekend in the city of Watertown.

Since the beginning of the month, 11 other people in the county overdosed and survived.

Stephen Jennings of Jefferson County Public Health Service said the county is on track to see a record number of overdose deaths this year.

"We’re alarmed, " he said. “If we keep going at this pace, it will be our worst year ever since I’ve been looking at the statistics. We can be at least 33 deaths. That would be the highest year ever for us since 2000.”

Narcotics are the suspected primary drug. However, other drugs or a combination of drugs could be causing the overdoses, officials said.

According to data submitted by first responders utilizing the ODMAP software system, overdose activity has steadily risen since March when there were 22 suspected overdoses reported, followed by 27 suspected overdoses reported in April, and 32 suspected overdoses reported in May.

Year to date, total suspected overdoses are 128.

There have been 12 confirmed overdose deaths for 2020 in the county, and include 3 in January, 1 in February, 5 in March, 2 in April, and 1 in May.

Ten of these confirmed deaths are due to opioids; 9 of these attributed specifically to fentanyl.

An additional 4 overdose fatalities are pending toxicology report confirmation.

Last year at this time, there were 2 overdose deaths for 2019. The county ended the year with a total of 20 deaths.

Jennings said officials are unable to compare data on overall overdoses from 2019 because the county only started using the ODMAP system late last year.

As for why overdoses are on the rise, Jennings said there’s only anecdotal information that the shutdown of the economy due to COVID-19 may be playing a role.

He said there are reports that people are depressed and anxious, have more time on their hands and more money thanks to stimulus checks or unemployment benefits.

Jennings said there are other reports that drugs on the street are cheaper right now.

The Jefferson County Public Health Service, Jefferson County Department of Community Services, and the Alliance for Better Communities want to remind people that a number of community resources have been established and expanded to help people who have substance use disorders, and for people to access these resources to receive assistance and treatment:

- Anchor Recovery Center of NNY: (315) 836-3460

- Credo Community Center for Treatment of Addictions: (315) 788-1530

- ACR Health: (315) 785-8222

- Samaritan Addiction Services: (315) 779-5060

- Samaritan Medical Center - Social Worker on Call: (315) 785-4516

- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

- Northern Regional Center for Independent Living: (315) 785-8703 business hours; and (315) 785-8708 nights and weekends.

- Mobile Crisis Jefferson County: (315) 782-2327 of (315) 777-9681

- Hope Line: 1-877-8-HOPENY or Text 46736

- To receive Naloxone training and free kits, contact Credo, ACR Health, or the Anchor Recovery Center of NNY

The public is also reminded of New York State’s 911 Good Samaritan Law, which allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest due to drug possession if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing.

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