11 suspected opioid overdoses last week in Dane County triggers alert

11 suspected opioid overdoses last week in Dane County triggers alert

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Drug overdose flags (copy)

White flags along Atwood Avenue, lining Olbrich Park, memorialize people who have died from drug overdoses, mainly opioids. The flags, erected in September for International Overdose Awareness Day.

Eleven people appear to have overdosed on opioids last week in Dane County, triggering an alert Tuesday by public health officials.

The alert by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Public Health Madison and Dane County cites 11 reports of suspected opioid drug overdoses seen at hospital emergency departments.

“This is a greater number of opioid drug overdoses than would otherwise be expected within a seven-day period based on Dane County’s recent opioid overdose activity,” the alert said.

It’s the first such alert this year in Dane County, which issued three opioid alerts last year, in July and September, said Sarah Mattes, spokeswoman for Public Health Madison and Dane County.

The new alert is meant “to increase community awareness and advise first responders, health care professionals, and people who use drugs and their families of the increased risk for overdose in our community.”

The increase comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the county and state harder, but the alert said officials don’t know what is driving the recent opioid activity.

“It is possible that the composition of illicit street drugs in our community changed (including a mixture of opiates, fentanyl, carfentanil and other synthetics),” the alert said.

The alert advises people to call 911 if they suspect someone is overdosing. For residents struggling with addiction, Safe Communities has a 24/7 helpline at (608) 228-1278.

The state started issuing alerts early last year to help combat the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic.

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