Richmond County experiencing a ‘cluster of overdoses’ per health department

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Georgia Department of Health is on alert. A state epidemiologist says overdoses are spiking in Richmond County.

New syndromic surveillance data from DPH reveals 125 people overdosed in Richmond County from January 17 to March 13, 2021. Specifically in zip codes 30901, 30904, 30906, 30907, 30909, 30813, 30814 and 30815.

“I’ve been kind of following the trends and I have seen this in other areas of the nation so it was just a matter of time before it hit this area,” said Tamera Miller.

Right now, DPH reports the increase in local overdoses may be due to dealers selling counterfeit pills as Xanax or Percocet but those meds contain fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Miller said, “At the end of the day, they’re business people and they’re going to do whatever they can to make the most money. And if that means putting lives at risk by cutting their drugs with fentanyl, then yeah.”

Miller is a former addict turned case manager at Hope House in Augusta. She’s been sober for more than seven years.

She said, “Back then I knew that whatever I bought off the street was going to be from a pharmacy. If I was in active addiction now, I would probably be one of those people turning up in the hospitals because I’d end up buying something that was pressed at their house and cut half with fentanyl.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted Tuesday from March 2020 to February 2021, Georgia hospitals had a 55% increase in opioid-involved visits compared to 2019 numbers.

Twenty-one overdose patients in Richmond County mentioned an opioid during their hospital visit.

Miller explained, “You don’t have to live that way anymore. You don’t have to wake up dope sick every morning. You don’t have to wonder where your next fix is going to come from, that there are people out there that can help you get better.”

Full DPH East Central District overdose statistics from January 17, 2021 – March 13, 2021:

  • Total number – 125
  • 99 Patients reside in neighboring zip codes (30901, 30904, 30906, 30907, 30909,
  • 30813, 30814, 30815)
  • 68 patients were aged 25-49
  • 21 visits mentioned an opioid
  • 18 visits mentioned heroin
  • 3 visits mentioned fentanyl
  • 7 visits mentioned a specific prescription opioid (Xanax/Percocet/Oxy/Roxicodone/Hydrocodone)
  • During this time: 5 suspect cluster notifications sent to district staff

Under a Georgia order the overdose prevention drug, Naloxone (Narcan), is available at any pharmacy without a prescription. A drug user can also buy test strips to check the substance for fentanyl.

Miller added, “If somebody does get something and it has fentanyl and they do overdose, if you have Narcan on hand, there’s a good possibility that you can reverse that overdose and give enough time for the ambulance to get there.”

Hope House can be reached at (706) 737-9879 for questions and help.

To report suspected cases or for any additional questions, call the Georgia Poison
Center at 1-800-222-1222 or contact the Drug Surveillance Unit at ga.opioidprogram@dph.ga.gov.

For the Georgia Crisis hotline call 1-800-715-4225.

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