CHICAGO (CBS) — Deaths due to heroin and other opioid-related drug overdoses in the Chicago area continue to spike but in a couple of counties, there’s been a slight dip and in another county a big increase.
Through July, Lake and Will Counties have seen slight decreases in the number of heroin and opioid-related deaths this year compared to last. Lake has had 31 heroin/fentanyl/opioid-related deaths versus 35 last year during the same period. In Will County, there were 37 confirmed cases of overdose deaths due to opioids, six fewer than last year during the same time.
McHenry County, though, has seen a 52 percent increase from 23 through July of last year compared to 35 during the same time frame this year.
McHenry County Coroner Dr. Anne Majewski is astounded that her county has more heroin and opioid-related deaths than much larger Lake County, which had 31 through July.
“This is an extra epidemic for our county,” she said
Dr. Majewski goes on to say, “my fright is that the numbers I have are only the tip of the iceberg of people out there who are using opioids illicit and prescribed and are at risk for death.”
Dr. Majewski attributes the increase to the ease of obtaining and using the drugs and, she thinks, dealers are going out to McHenry so people don’t have to go into Chicago to get their drugs.
The coroner would like to see even more awareness programs and better access to treatment. She said many people are paying attention to the warnings and the awareness programs in the community, but that, “I think there’s many people that we need to bring into the fold.”
Preliminarily, according to Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, Cook County has seen deaths due, at least in part to opioids, jump 24 percent to 408 through July from 330 in 2016.
DuPage and Kane Counties were about the same as last year but DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen said that means his county is still headed for a bad year of overdoses through the use of heroin, fentanyl and related drugs. Last year, DuPage County ended up with 78 opioid-related deaths. Through July, DuPage had 36 opiod-related deaths. Kane County had 26 such overdose deaths.
Jorgensen said he’s now seeing more people die of a combination of heroin and the more-powerful fentanyl or so-called “designer” fentanyl drugs than just heroin by itself.
Jorgensen said the naloxone program in DuPage County “has been amazing” and has seen 335 overdose reversals so far this year.