Surge in overdoses seen statewide since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) -State health officials say the coronavirus pandemic may be a factor in the large increase in opioid overdoses in the state. Preliminary statistics show opioid overdoses are up by 117% compared to last year.

On the front lines of the opioid crisis, Fond du Lac Fire Rescue has been keeping a close eye on the number of times it uses Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It’s also been tracking the city’s number of overdose deaths for years.

“From ’15 to ’16 to ’17 we were actually going down in our heroin numbers,” says Lt. Carl Bahr.

But, like state officials who report opioid overdoses have increased by nearly a 120% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic compared to the same time frame last year, Fond du Lac Fire Rescue is seeing its numbers increase, too.

According to Lt. Bahr, “What we’ve seen in an uptick of heroin usage, heroin overdoses and heroin deaths. We’ve already exceeded our number from last year, the year before that, and even the year before that.”

In fact, in the first six months of 2020 Fond du Lac Fire Rescue has administered Narcan 45 times and it’s recorded 8 suspected drug overdose deaths.

The department says 7 people died from drug overdoses in the city in all of 2019, and the department used 71 doses of Narcan.

State and local officials don’t think the increase in overdoses during the pandemic is a coincidence; they do believe the two are connected.

"This COVID thing is truly affecting people's lives, and it's just too much to ignore," adds Lt. Bahr.

So, on calls, Fond du Lac Fire Rescue works to educate patients and their families that help is available.

Lt. Bahr says, “There are things out there EAP systems and hotlines that they can call to hopefully help them out with those issues so they don’t have to turn to the heroin in this case.”

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