Winnebago County launches an overdose fatality review team

Published: Mar. 20, 2018 at 5:07 PM CDT
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As the number of overdose deaths in Winnebago County continues to climb, leaders are looking at ways to combat the problem. County officials believe an in-depth look at the deaths is the key to reducing them.

Last year, 31 people in Winnebago County died from an overdose. Nearly two dozen of those deaths were due to opiate use.

Stephanie Gyldenvand is with the Winnebago County Health Department. She says, "I think in part, drug deaths are rising because access is there. Really, we see that line increase and we're really not sure why?"

Concerned with the fact those numbers continue to grow every year, Winnebago County applied for and was selected as one of six counties across the state to receive grant funding to launch an Overdose Fatality Review Team.

"With partners from school to law enforcement to recovery, beyond and in between, we are poised to not only identify opportunities for intervention, but implement changes that change systems that touch the lives of our community members who are impacted by substance abuse," says Carolyn McCarty from the Winnebago County Health Department.

The idea of the team, many of its members present at today's launch, is to examine each overdose and determine what led to it.

"It's really doing a deep dive on the overdose fatalities to identify where were those missed opportunities for intervention, prevention," adds Mallory O'Brien from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

With those findings, the review team will then try to come up with solutions to prevent similar deaths in the future. And while each overdose death will have its own set of circumstances, honing in on those issues will give community partners a better idea of what can be done better to save lives.

According to Kim Maki from the Winnebago County Coroner's Office, "Even if it's based off of one loss, if there's something we can learn from that, hey our system needs to do this, this is what we need to recommend to the general public to be aware of, that's a step in the right direction."