More than 50 overdose deaths have occured in Grant County this year, surpassing the 30 recorded overdose deaths in 2020, according to County Coroner Stephen Dorsey.

An additional seven cases of suspected overdose deaths are pending from the last four to six weeks, Dorsey said. Overdose deaths will likely double this year compared to last, if not more, Dorsey said.

“It is out of control,” Dorsey said. “This will probably be the highest year for drug overdoses in our county’s history.”

Dorsey said he has had to request additional funds from the county for toxicology testing this year due to the increase in overdose deaths.

Ninety-eight percent of the overdose deaths have included fentanyl in the drug, Dorsey said.

Most of the overdose deaths Dorsey has seen have been caused by the use of what is known on the street as a “speedball,” or a mixture of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“I see that quite often,” Dorsey said.

Grant County Emergency Medical Services Director Duaine Ashcraft said his emergency responders have also seen a significant increase in the number of overdoses in the community.

“The ironic thing about that is it comes in waves,” Ashcraft said. “Generally we can tell if a bad batch or a strong batch – maybe a batch of drugs that are cut with something else – hits town because we will have several in local communities as well as Marion and have overdoses.”

Ashcraft said sometimes EMS workers arrive on the scene and are told that there is no longer a need for an ambulance. Therefore, the number of overdoses known by emergency response agencies excludes many overdose cases in which a family member or bystander has used Naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose that is commonly known by the brand name “Narcan.”

Ashcraft said he recommends that family members of those who are known to use opioids have Narcan on hand.

Grant County Sheriff’s Captain Ed Beaty said the sheriff’s department has seen a slight increase in overdose cases, though the areas under city police control have a far more dense population than the county area.

In 2020, the sheriff’s department had 18 overdose cases, Beaty said. The number has risen to 23 overdose cases from Jan. 1, 2021 to Oct. 30, 2021.

In the last month, Beaty said the department had three cases in which Narcan was used, and one subject was given Narcan twice in 24 hours.

“That individual is very lucky because someone was home and was able to find that individual,” Beaty said. “If no one was home, the person would most likely have been a death.”

Both Beaty and Ashcraft encourage citizens to have Narcan available to them in case of emergency, especially those who have family members who are known to use opioids.

Though Narcan can be used to save a life, Dorsey questioned whether or not Narcan is helping to end the opioid epidemic.

“At the end of the day, how many times can a person be narcanned and still continue to do that daily?” Dorsey asked. “How do we face up and deal with this issue, other than giving everybody narcan? What is the government doing to assist us with this, other than issuing out narcan? How do we fix this?”
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