Opioids-related overdoses, deaths continue to climb

August 31, 2020
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State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, the West Side Heroin Overdose Task Force and community partners will mark International Overdose Awareness Day Monday by discussing ways to fight the epidemic and remembering the hundreds who die each year in Chicago from accidental opioid overdoses.

“West Side communities in Chicago have the highest death rates due to opioid overdoses,” Ford said in statement. “Heroin is increasingly contaminated with deadly fentanyl, and the West Side has borne the brunt of the crisis in terms of addiction and overdose deaths.”

Opioid-related overdoses and deaths have risen at alarming rates in Chicago. West Side Black residents account for a disproportionate number of those deaths.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office recently surpassed 10,000 cases handled in 2020; about 1,400 of those were opioid-related deaths.

From Jan. 1 through May 31, there were at least 472 opioid-related overdose deaths in Chicago, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of 46% from the same time in 2019.

Of the 86 opioid-related overdose deaths in just May alone, 56% were Black, 22% were White, and 19% were Latinx.

Most significantly, 81% of those deaths involved fentanyl, either alone or in combination with heroin. Fentanyl-contaminated cocaine is also increasingly seen as a cause of overdose and death.

Starting at noon Monday at 4000 W. Jackson, Ford and representatives from several community groups – including Prevention Partnership, Thresholds, The Night Ministry, Fathers Who Care, Rush Hospital, Heartland Alliance and Healthcare Alternative Services – will provide overdose reversal training; distribute Narcan/naloxone and PPE; make referrals to medication-assisted recovery for addiction treatment; and help with housing.

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