The Butler County Health Department has requested an emergency allotment of Narcan after five suspected fentanyl/heroin drug overdose deaths were reported in a 26-hour span.
Butler County made the request and added classes on how to properly dispense the drug that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses after five people died from overdosing between Jan. 19-20, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.
“It’s certainly concerning,” Dr. Lisa Mannix, Butler County coroner, said of the 26-hour spike. “Either use is up or potent product is out there. Something is going on.”
Three of the five people overdosed in Middletown and the others were in Monroe and West Chester Twp., according to the coroner’s office. All were males, and four were white, the other African-American. The average age of the deceased was 36.
Jenny Bailer, nursing director of the Butler County Health Department, said the free Narcan from the state’s Mental Health and Addiction Board will be distributed in the neighborhoods where the overdoses were reported.
The first call came into the coroner’s office at 12:20 p.m. Jan. 19 in Monroe and the fifth and final call was made at 2:13 p.m. Jan. 20 in Middletown, the coroner’s office said.
Initially, Mannix said after her office received coroner requests “one after another,” she wondered if it was a fluke or if the trend would continue throughout the weekend. She immediately contacted county health and EMS departments and law enforcement agencies.
She wanted them to alert residents about the “flurry” of opiate related deaths, but there were no more suspected opiate deaths in the county the rest of the weekend, Mannix said.
Five overdoses typically occur in one week in Butler County, she said.
For the first seven months last year, there were 113 drug overdoses and 89, or 79 percent, were heroin/fentanyl related, the Butler County Coroner’s Office said. In 2015 in Butler County, there were 189 drug overdoses, and 149, or 79 percent, were heroin related, officials said.
Mannix expects the number of total overdoses for 2016 to be announced soon. Preliminary reports indicate 2016 will break the record for overdoses set in 2015.
“The trend continues,” Mannix said. “These drugs will kill you. … The question is how do we stop the use before it kills you.”
In response to the heroin epidemic throughout the region, community groups have been formed; paramedics are armed with Narcan; pharmacies are selling Narcan; drug rehabilitation centers have opened; and clean needle exchanges have started.
“It’s roulette,” Mannix said of heroin. “You don’t know what you get one dose to the next. The product you use today and what you buy tomorrow is probably not the same thing. It may be less potent or it may be more potent.”