BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office reported three more suspected overdose deaths in Jefferson County Tuesday night. This comes in addition to three women who died of suspected overdoses in the Center Point area Monday.
Jefferson County’s Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates says the county hit a record 302 drug overdoses in 2020, a 28% increase from 2019. He says the culprit is easy to spot.
“In a decedent who dies of an overdose, we’re seeing fentanyl and cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine or fentanyl and heroin” says Yates.
Darlene Traffanstedt, medical director of the Jefferson County Health Department explains that the increase in overdoses in Jefferson county started far from Alabama.
“When the pandemic hit internationally, it affected the fentanyl influx from China. And then in early 2020, when the U S Mexico border closed due to the pandemic, it affected heroin being transported from Mexico into the United States. And what that created was, the ability for illicitly manufactured, fentanyl to make it into our drug supply here. And it has permeated every street drug that is available here in Jefferson County.
Traffansted says hot spots for overdoses tend to be Linn Park in downtown Birmingham, the East Lake/Center Point/Roebuck area, as well as McCalla to the west and even rural parts of the county.
Both Traffanstedt and Yates say the most common opioid overdose went from a white male in his 30s to a white male in his 40....since the opioid epidemic started over five years ago...overall opioid deaths among whites has dropped 14-percent but increased among black users by 12 percent
Traffanstedt says what the community can do is to take advantage of the resources available in the county and understand the danger.
“Any drug use is at risk for a fentanyl overdose at this time. So it doesn’t matter what the drug of choice is. There is a risk that it is contaminated with fentanyl.”)
“The other thing is that overdose opioid overdose deaths are preventable. So you have someone in your family, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor that, you know, struggles with substance abuse. Please get a Narcan kit, learn how to use it, and you may save their life” she addsed.
Bill Yates says unless something changes, Jefferson County is on track for another overdose record this year. So if you can stay in contact with those who are struggling, try to do so.
“A lot of times the backstory that we learn about our decedents is, for some reason, they have become a stranger, disconnected from a community -not always - but, they need support. and so this is a, this is a battle that they fight that, that a lot of times they can’t fight on their own.”