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Overdose numbers for 2018 are in; they aren't pretty

Courier-Tribune - 1/12/2019

Jan. 12--ASHEBORO -- Randolph County Public Health Director Susan Hayes provided the Asheboro City Council with an update on the county's opioid crisis at Thursday's regularly scheduled meeting.

Hayes shared visuals with the council, including maps that highlight the opioid crisis on a state and local level.

"It's important to see North Carolina so you can see where we (Randolph County) are," Hayes explained.

The maps reveal that Randolph County, along with Buncombe County, are among locations with the highest rate of opioid overdoses per capita, or per 100,000 residents.

Data reflecting opioid overdose numbers was not documented until recently -- and when requested from the state, overdose data can take a full year to be provided.

Randolph County Emergency Services Director Donovan Davis began tracking overdose data in March of 2017, leading to more current and relevant data being available locally.

2018 was the first complete calander year that overdose data was kept for Randolph County.

In the data collected from March to December in 2017, 203 suspected overdoses were documented.

In 2018, EMS responded to 445.

The 2018 data is broken down further into the types of overdoses:

* Accidental by legal medication -- 48.

* Accidental by illegal substance -- 334.

* Intentional by legal medication -- 54.

* Intentional by illegal substance -- 12.

"We're seeing more and more heroin and illegal opioids because now pharmacies can only prescribe a certain amount of opioids because of the STOP Act," Hayes said. "Now they're harder to get and very expensive on the street. Heroin's cheap, and that's what they go for."

Hayes also addressed the reach that the overdose reversal drug Narcan now has.

Narcan was reported to have been administered 149 times in Randolph County in 2018, though the actual number is likely much higher, due to undocumented cases.

* Administered by bystander -- 33.

* Administered by law enforcement -- 3.

* Administered by fire department -- 10.

* Administered by EMS -- 103.

These numbers are likely to grow as more law enforcement agencies are provided with Narcan, according to Hayes.

Hayes also pointed out on a "heat" map that Asheboro and Archdale are two of the "hottest" spots in Randolph County for overdoses.

Initiatives are being made across the county to assist in fighting the opioid epidemic, including the Randolph County Opioid Community Collaborative, which was formed in February 2018.

"The purpose of the meetings is to share information, learn about resources and see what each other are doing," Hayes explained.

The meetings, which take place on the first Monday of every other month, are open to the public.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 28 at the Randolph County Health Department.

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