Carroll County’s top health official told the Board of County Commissioners last week he had been expecting this to be a breakthrough year when the county would make significant progress in the opioid epidemic.
Data hasn’t necessarily shown that sort of dramatic improvement — perhaps because the coronavirus pandemic has pulled resources in other directions, Health Officer Ed Singer theorized Thursday — but the trend is, nevertheless, slightly downward through July.
Overdoses in Carroll County were down 23.5% in July compared with July 2019 and, according to data released by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, through seven months of 2020, overdoses are down by about 8% compared to the same time period in 2019.
There were 39 overdoses in July, bringing the yearly total to 226, the data shows. By comparison, there were 51 overdoses in July 2019 and 245 at this point last year.
The 39 overdoses did, however, represent a 39% increase over the 28 seen in June, and July has the second-highest monthly total in 2020.
There were three fatal overdoes in July, down one from last July and down two from last month. Carroll has suffered 27 overdose deaths in 2020, the same number as in 2019 through July. There had already been 49 fatal overdoses through seven months of 2018. Of the 27 fatalities this year, one was determined to be a suicide, 13 were determined to be accidental and the other 13 are still undetermined.
“While I really thought we were starting to turn a corner as we were going into 2020, and was hoping we were going to see the number of deaths and nonfatal overdoses significantly decrease, we’re still putting a lot of effort into it, but we’re on about the same level as last year as far as fatal overdoses are concerned as we were last year, and so the numbers kind of speak for themselves,” Singer said during the commissioners meeting Thursday, Aug. 6. “I have to give my behavioral health staff, the hospital’s behavioral health staff and all behavioral health providers just a pat on the back for moving things forward in Carroll County, and making sure we’re addressing the epidemic of opioid use [during the coronavirus pandemic].”
Singer noted the decrease in nonfatal overdoses, but said he couldn’t rule out that the improvement there was because, out of fear of contracting COVID-19, fewer people were seeking care at medical facilities after overdosing.
Fourteen of the 39 overdoses were related to heroin, though none were attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Last year, there had been 100 heroin overdoses through July.
For the year, Carroll has seen 77 heroin overdoses and 14 from fentanyl, although the drug/method is listed as unknown for 60 cases. Of the 27 fatalities, 11 are linked to fentanyl.
Twenty of the 25 overdoses that occurred in municipal jurisdictions or town limits were in Westminster. The other 14 occurred in Sheriff’s Office patrol areas. Of those, three were in the Westminster area. Thirty-seven of the 39 overdose victims were Carroll County residents.
For the year, one out of every three overdose victims has been between 25 and 34 years old, and that trend continued in July as 36% of those who overdosed were in that range.
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Anyone with behavioral health concerns, such as substance abuse, to call the health department at 410-876-4449.