While dealing with the ongoing state of emergency resulting from COVID-19, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department has also been faced with an unparalleled number of overdoses.
In less than 36 hours spanning March 23 and 24, officers responded to nine overdose calls, said Chief Deputy Brad Ellison.
The calls came in from across the county – Mullens, Pineville, North Spring, and other areas.
Over the course of the same week, the total jumped from nine to 14 overdose calls.
It’s not prescription pills this time, Ellison said, but illegally made fentanyl.
None of the cases handled by deputies resulted in death, Ellison said, but one victim had to have Narcan administered three times to revive him.
Narcan is used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.
Deputies and other emergency response personnel now carry Narcan as do those with substance abuse disorder, Ellison explained. It is distributed as part of needle exchange programs.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever used to treat severe pain, such as end-of-life-stage cancer. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Made in lozenge and patch form, the legal drug is easily turned into a liquid form that is then mixed with heroin and/or cocaine or sprayed on such products as powdered sugar, according to officials.
Nationwide, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl but not methadone, jumped 10 percent from 2017 to 2018. More than 31,000 people across the United States died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2018, according to CDC statistics.
The illegally made fentanyl is being shipped into Wyoming County from other states, Ellison noted, and is the focus of an ongoing multi-agency investigation.
Ellison said he had never seen that number of overdoses in such a short period of time in his nearly 30 years in law enforcement.
Meanwhile, as of Thursday afternoon, there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.