Tri-county area sees a 30 percent decrease in overdose-related deaths

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS — It’s no secret there’s been a substance abuse issue in the tri-county area, but law enforcement is revealing the number of overdose-related deaths are on the decline.

Officials said the area’s seen a 30 percent decrease in the past year.

Statistics from the Peoria County Coroner’s office show there were 67 overdose-related deaths in 2017, 59 deaths in 2018 and 37 at the end of 2019.

Jamie Harwood, Peoria County Coroner, said many of the deaths are a result of people, knowingly or unknowingly, taking mixed drugs.

“We’re seeing a lot of cocaine mixed drugs,” Harwood said. ” Cocaine mixed with fentanyl, cocaine mixed with benzodiazepines.”

Harwood said if the body isn’t used to certain substances, they can cause death rather quickly when mixed together. He also said many of the overdose fatalities in the past year were people over the age of 40.

Chris Schaffner, program director of the Jolt Harm Reduction Center, said there may be a saving grace for drug users in the form of the medication Narcan.

Schaffner said the county’s distribution of the opioid overdose reversal medication has been one of the main factors in saving lives.

“I’ve seen them come back from death,” Schaffner said. “I’ve seen them not breathing and turning blue and being lifeless and then giving them enough of the medication that it wakes them back up and saving their lives.”

Harwood said the decline in overdose-related deaths has been a collective effort from law enforcement training and enforcing the saturation of Narcan.

He also credits harm reduction centers, such as Jolt, as being instrumental in providing helpful services to those struggling with addiction.

Harwood said he believes there should be more treatment centers in the area as well as a reduction in the negative stigma toward drug users to ensure they’re able to get the help they need.

“I’ve seen every walk of life use and die of a drug overdose,” Harwood said. “Until you’ve walked in the shoes of someone with a substance abuse problem, you can’t pass judgment.”

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