A recently completed report shows a continued increase in La Crosse County overdose deaths.
Thursday at the Heroin and Illicit Drug Task Force meeting, findings from the report were presented by Al Bliss and Kelsey Skala of La Crosse County Health.
Some stand out statistics showed that 29 people died from a drug overdose in 2017, up from 21 in 2016 and nearly triple the overdose deaths from five years prior.
Increased use of naloxone, or Narcan, used to treat overdose rose along with the growth of the heroin and opioid crisis. The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin provides training in the use of Narcan and between 2008 and 2017, the number of trainings increased from just 4 to 593 in the counties they serve.
"What that means is that someone came in, they got taught how to use it and they took it with them,” Skala said. “And of those 593 trainings there was 328 self reported administrations."
Those administrations were for 141 patients total, showing an increased potency in heroin laced with other substances. Out of the 29 overdose deaths in 2017, 15 showed fentanyl – a dangerously potent synthetic opioid – in their systems following toxicology reports. Responders say in many overdose cases, multiple doses of Narcan are necessary to stabilize the individual involved.
The report also showed increases in general overdoses (or “poisonings” as it's referred to in the report) in La Crosse County. From 2016 to 2017, heroin poisonings increased by 14.7%, SSRI/antidepressant poisonings increased by 26.7% and opioid poisonings increased by 28%.
The report also highlighted strides being made in other areas.
A Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed decreased use across the board among teens, with the most significant drop in admitted marijuana use, from 33% to 23% in 4 years. 25-44 year olds showed the highest diagnosis of drug use/abuse or poisonings, followed by 45-64 year olds.
Gundersen data showed the number of drug-related hospitalizations down for the first time since 2013. Those hospitalizations peaked in 2016 with 2,070 being admitted. 2017 showed a decrease to 1,972. The overall drug-related hospitalizations since 2013 is still up by 784 cases.
Cases of hepatitis B and C decreased from an apparent peak in 2016, with hep C showing the most dramatic decrease from 90 to 64. Bliss correlated the decrease with work done through the ARCW's needle exchange program and two drop boxes for used needles in La Crosse.
“The cost to treat hepatitis C, for the medications, they're extremely expensive,” he said. “They can be anywhere from $55,000 to $95,000 over a period of 12 weeks of treatment.”
Between May of 2017 and January of this year, 746 pounds of used needles were collected from sharps containers.
The full 38-page report will be made available in the following week.