La Crosse County on track to break record for overdose deaths

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued a public advisory warning Wisconsinites about the rising number of fentanyl overdose deaths. Over the past two years, the number of fentanyl overdoses in Wisconsin has increased by 97%.

Last year, the La Crosse County Medical Examiner’s office had 33 deaths caused by an overdose. They expect to meet and possibly exceed that record by the end of the year.

So far this year, the La Crosse County Medical Examiner’s office has seen 26 overdose related deaths. 8 of those deaths are fentanyl related. Interim County medical examiner Beth Lubinski says fentanyl has become common because of how quickly it can provide addicts with a high.

“The dealers are trying to cut it more and more with fentanyl so people get more of a high faster,” Lubinski said.

The larger the amount of fentanyl, the deadlier the drug can be – which is why the La Crosse County Health Department began distributing fentanyl test strips. The test strips, which were decriminalized by Gov. Tony Evers allows people to test drugs to see if they contain traces of fentanyl.

“They dilute a little bit of it in water and they put the test strip in and then the strip shows whether or not there’s fentanyl present,” Anneliese Skoda with the La Crosse County Human Services.

Street Medicine team member Sandy Brekke distributes the test strips in Houska Park every week. She says fentanyl is now appearing in every drug.

“We saw marijuana laced with fentanyl at Houska Park.”

Brekke says to reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose, people are having to use more Narcan.

“You might use one or two doses, now we’re using up to six, seven doses,” she said.

The high uses of Narcan is leading to concerns about a shortage.

“We’re going through our Narcan rapidly,” Brekke said.

In the meantime, Lubinski says it’s important to raise awareness about overdoses.

“Just put it out there that you have an addiction, but there’s help, there’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Lubinksi said.

So that people can get the help they need.

Lubinksi says the test strips are just one part of a harm reduction strategy. People can request free test strips from the County Health Department and local recovery centers.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you can call the substance abuse hotline number at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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