Crisis mode

Drug overdoses in county rising, as epidemic hits home

This is the first in a serires of stories about the rising opioid epidemic in the area.

OGLE COUNTY — Communities across the country are seeking ways to combat the growing opioid overdose epidemic and Ogle County and Rochelle are no different.
The problems have escalated to the point of President Trump declaring it a national public health emergency, and in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s opioid task force embarked on a listening tour around the state in search of information and partners who will help to implement a plan to curtail the ever-increasing epidemic.
The task force is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Ill. Dept. of Public Health.
“The opioid epidemic knows no neighborhood, no color, and no class. It is not confined to alleys in urban settings, nor isolated in rural communities,” Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti said in a press release dated Oct. 11. “We are traveling the state to collect research and hear stories of those impacted by this growing opioid overdose epidemic so we can take action to save lives.”
The task force hopes to hear from first responders, community organizations, health care providers, or those that might be impacted by opioid use. The Opioid Action Plan identifies the areas of focus as prevention, treatment/recovery, and response.
Local efforts
Kyle Auman, Public Health Administrator with the Ogle County Health Dept. said the epidemic is a major public health priority, explaining the goal of the state’s action plan facilitated by the IDPH. He also noted smaller public health departments such as Ogle County are struggling to find the resources to address the problem.
“Illinois is in the process of developing a Statewide Action Plan with a goal to reduce Opioid-Related deaths by 33 percent in three years,” Auman said. “The department is in the process of collecting the appropriate information to better understand the issues in our county. We would certainly like to understand the size and scope of the issue so to coordinate resources in response.”
Recently the IDPH issued a standing order for the drug Naloxone, more commonly known by the brand name Narcan. The standing order allows the drug to be more readily available to the community and first responders.
It is estimated the move will help save nearly 2,000 lives annually.
Two years ago the access to Narcan was expanded after Illinois enacted Public Act 99-0480, authorizing first responders and pharmacists the ability to dispense the opioid overdose reversing medication. However, at the time in order to dispense the drug a prescription was needed.
With the standard order acting as a prescription, pharmacies, along with law enforcement agencies, health departments, urgent care facilities, and drug treatment programs are allowed to obtain and/or distribute naloxone.
County overdoses
Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said the department is trained and is provided with Narcan from Swedish American Hospital.  Just recently deputies administered the opioid overdose-reversing drug for the first time, which was one of eight overdoses the department has seen in the last three years.
VanVickle said that number doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of overdoses from opioids in the county. He also said neighboring counties such as Winnebago and Whiteside are seeing even larger numbers of opioid-related overdoses.
“If the person is transported prior to our arrival it is logged as an EMS call and if the person is transported and dies this typically is logged by the county in which the death is pronounced,” VanVickle explained. “The sheriff’s office continues to participate heavily in Drug Court and the Juvenile Justice Program.”
VanVickle said the department is also collaborating with a regional drug task force in an effort to reduce drug supplies.

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