First responders fear an increase in overdoses as fentanyl becomes more prevalent in narcotics

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Indiana has seen a 30% increase in drug overdoses in the past year.

On March 18 in Elkhart, five people overdosed in a ten hour period-- one of them died-- which prompted police to warn there was an unidentified substance in the drugs, likely fentanyl. 

“Fentanyl is one of the emerging drug trends," said Becky Savage, founder of the 525 Foundation, a drug education and prevention group. "That’s why communities are starting to see people suffering from fentanyl overdoses.”

Lake County, Indiana reported numerous deaths related to fentanyl laced narcotics-- five from tainted heroin in the past twelve months, and an incredible fifty-five deaths from cocaine cut with fentanyl-- which prompted the Hammond Police Department to issue a warning about fake Oxycodone pills over Facebook, after they saw four fentanyl related cocaine overdoses last week. 

“That’s a huge increase," said Assistant Fire Chief Jaren Kilian, with the Clay Fire Department. "Any time we have adjoining counties where we see upticks, that raises our ears and our awareness.”

Kilian added that despite seeing increases all over the state, St. Joe County's number of overdoses stayed consistent with data from the past three years-- but they're not letting their guard down.

“We need to be on the alert, we need to be watching out and trending our call data to make sure we’re not seeing those numbers over here, he said, adding that the public needs to be aware that any drug bought off the street could be contaminated.

Some dealers have even put fentanyl on marijuana.

“We need to make sure the community is being as proactive as they can to make sure we can keep those unfortunate events from happening," Kilian said.

Savage said that, because fentanyl can be so prevalent in other drugs, people should be prepared for even more overdoses.

“Know where you can get Narcan in your community," she said. "I encourage everybody to carry Narcan. You never know when you’re gonna need it. You might not need it for yourself, but you might come across somebody who’s in the midst of an overdose, and if you have it on you, that gives them that extra chance of life.”

There is a vending machine that distributes free doses of Naloxone, which can help save someone's life if they are overdosing, at the St. Joseph County Jail, which has administered over one-thousand doses since it was installed.



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