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Columbia County sees spike in opioid overdoses

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Columbia County has seen a spike in overdoses involving opioids in the past week, with a total of seven overdoses being reported in two days alone.

Columbia County Health and Human Services received two spike alerts over the weekend with a total of seven overdoses in two days. The spike reports come from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. They are sent to the county when there are two or more overdoses within a 24-hour period. The information is pulled from hospital emergency departments and EMS records.

“Seeing seven in two days is alarming,” said Ellen Ellingsworth, a health officer with Columbia County Health and Human Services. “Even more so when 71% were related to illicit oxycodone.”

The spike alerts are part of a pilot program conducted by the state which reviews hospital and ambulance data to identify unexpected increases in drug-involved overdoses. A change in local drug supply may cause such a spike. The alerts provide as much information as possible about the overdose to help prevent overdose deaths.

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“In the month of June we had a total of 21 overdoses. There were only 13 overdoses in the month of May,” Ellingsworth noted.

In 2020, according to Wisconsin Department of Heath Services’ “Dose of Reality: Opioid Deaths by County,” Columbia County had an opioid death rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Statewide, the rate of opioid deaths in 2020 was 21.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. Additionally, Columbia County had 73.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents related to opioids.

Nationally, in 2020, there were 91,799 drug overdose deaths, according to the CDC. Opioids caused 74.8% of those deaths.

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Working with local law enforcement and healthcare professionals, Columbia County is hoping to reduce those numbers. Residents can take steps to reduce the risk of an opioid related overdose with a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose and can be given as a nasal spray.

Naxolon, the nasal spray, is available at no cost to the individual at Columbia County Department of Health by walk-in or by calling 608-742-9751.

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