Oneida County Overdose Response Team Issues Overdose Spike Alert

18 Overdoses, 4 Fatalities Reported in a 5-Day Period

The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has received an Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program spike alert notification triggered by 18 suspected heroin, cocaine and fentanyl-related overdoses and four fatalities between December 30, 2020 and January 3, 2021.

Eight of those overdoses occurred within in a 24-hour time period from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. An Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) spike alert is triggered by four overdoses within a 24-hour period.

“This spike in overdoses and fatalities is of great concern as we continue to simultaneously combat the COVD-19 pandemic,” said Oneida County Executive, Anthony J. Picente Jr. “To say that the past 10 months have been difficult is an understatement, and this is especially true for those struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. We must continue to remain diligent and on high alert over the next several months, and do all that we can to prevent additional overdose and death within our community.”

The Overdose Response Team (ORT) has been closely monitoring trends in local overdose data throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, and has recently identified an uncharacteristic increase in overdoses involving cocaine. Anecdotal reports from local treatment organizations throughout the county attest to the same.

Since the beginning of December, the ORT has documented 13 overdoses that each reportedly involved cocaine. This number is outside the norm in what has been identified in ODMAP as ‘cocaine-related,’ which usually hovers around one or two per month.

Moreover, naloxone—the medication that rapidly reverses an opioid-related overdose—was successfully administered in 11 of the 13 overdose instances, indicating that the cocaine was likely mixed with an opioid such as heroin or fentanyl. This can be particularly dangerous if the person using the substance is unaware of the presence of opioids, which is frequently the case.

These local trends mirror recent national trends and upticks in overdoses caused by cocaine and other stimulants. In mid-December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a Health Alert Network Advisory to all public health departments and healthcare professionals, alerting communities of substantial increases over the past year in overdose deaths caused by fentanyl, as well as a steep rise in the number of overdoses involving cocaine and psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine.

The ORT encourages people who use drugs to assume that substances like cocaine and methamphetamine also contain opioids, and to take the necessary precautions. These precautions include stocking up on Narcan, never using alone, and—if possible—testing substances for the presence of opioids before ingesting them. Fentanyl test strips are available for free by calling ACR Health at 315-793-0661.

Narcan is available at various local pharmacies and community based organizations throughout the county – the public is encouraged to dial 211 or text to 898-211 to receive assistance in finding a Narcan provider near them, along with information regarding local treatment and recovery services.

Always call 911 in a life-threatening situation and do not leave the victim alone. As a reminder, the Good Samaritan Law states that anyone who in good faith seeks care for themselves or someone experiencing a life-threatening emergency will not be charged or prosecuted for a drug- or alcohol-related offense, including possession of drug paraphernalia, with some exceptions.

The Oneida County Overdose Response Team is a subgroup of the Oneida County Opioid Task Force. The team was established to address the drug overdose crisis in Oneida County. The goals of the team are to use ODMAP surveillance data to reduce the number of overdoses and fatalities.