By Jason Arndt

A spike in overdose deaths from opioids in the last month has Kenosha County officials sounding the alarm.

Since last month, the Kenosha County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Kenosha Division of Health report 10 suspected overdoses, which are awaiting confirmation from toxicology results, a news release said.

Suspected drugs attributing to the spike of overdoses include Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycodone, fentanyl, heroin, morphine and codeine.

In 2016, Kenosha County reported 54 overdose death, with six coming from use of fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, the release said.

Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and even a trace of the narcotic can bring deadly consequences, Kenosha County Medical Examiner Patrice Hall said in the news release.

Through Aug. 2 of this year, Hall’s Office confirmed eight of 25 drug overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl.

“These suspected and confirmed toxicity deaths have occurred in all age groups, economic levels and all areas of Kenosha County,” Hall said.

Areas include the Village of Twin Lakes, where authorities have arrested suspects accused of supplying lethal doses of heroin, including an April 29 death in the Hilltop Motel.

Since the arrest of Brian Morris, others have been charged, including Ashley McGraw, who allegedly drove Morris to Waukegan to complete a drug transaction.

Authorities chipping in
As health officials report a spike in overdose deaths, authorities continue to investigate each case, according to Kenosha County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Weyker.

“If there is a lead linked to an overdose, we do give that priority and work with general assignment detectives to make an arrest,” said Weyker, the supervisor for the Kenosha Drug Operations Group.

“Latest one we are working on is with the (Kenosha Police Department) overdose investigation. We were able to make an arrest in the Twin Lakes overdoses on a subject out of Waukegan,” he added.

While they investigate and make arrests, Weyker hopes the Opioid Task Force helps raise awareness, including seeking resources.

Public Health concern
According to Director Cynthia Johnson of the Kenosha Division of Health, the confirmed cases were enough to issue a warning, adding they could have been prevented.

“Too many citizens have lost their lives due to an opioid overdose,” Johnson wrote in the press release. “Our goal is to save lives through prevention and safety measures.”

Safety measures include locking up medications, disposing of unused or expired medications, do not share prescribed medications along with identifying symptoms of a suspected overdose.

The Division of Health also advised residents struggling with addiction to seek treatment and area resources, including the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center and the Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program.

Additional supports consist of recovery groups, including Heroin Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the release states.

“We ask family and friends to help their loved ones get connected with these measures,” Johnson wrote in the release.

The measures, however, are mostly within Kenosha city limits and could create transportation barriers for Western Kenosha County communities where resources are limited.

The limited resources could hinder efforts to seek help, according to Drug User Recovery Coordinator Patti Hansen of Kenosha Human Development Services.

“It is much more difficult for folks living in the county to access services due to transportation issues as well as lack of resources in the county,” Hansen said. “It would help to get at least a couple bus lines out there.”

For Western Kenosha County residents in need, Hansen agreed with Johnson regarding the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center, which guides residents to appropriate services.

• Contact the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center at 262-657-7188. They can help you find treatment and services that are right for you such as counseling, medication assisted treatment, or a 12-step program.
• Narcotics Anonymous at 262-653-9800
• Heroin Anonymous/Southport Recovery Club at 262-552-6879
• Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program at 262-654-1004
• Recovery Coaches at 262-652-9830 or 262-658-8166


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