On October 3, 2022, the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services (WCDHHS) was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) of a suspected opioid overdose alert for Walworth County.
The alert was issued due to an increase in suspected opioid drug overdose activity in Walworth County between September 25, 2022, and October 1, 2022, when DHS identified three reports of suspected opioid drug overdoses seen at hospital emergency departments. An alert is triggered whenever the suspected number of opioid overdoses in emergency departments is statistically higher than usual in a specific area.
“We have been seeing an increase of overdoses related to the illegal use of drugs, most containing fentanyl,” says Walworth County Medical Examiner Gina Carver. “Our first responders and hospitals are doing a great job of providing effective treatment, which is keeping our death numbers lower. But any increase in overdoses is certainly concerning.”
The suspected opioid overdose alert was generated through the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, a nationwide emergency department surveillance system that tracks suspected opioid overdoses. DHS uses the platform’s data to learn about suspected increases in activity so it can alert affected health departments. The data is listed as suspected because the cases were not confirmed by a clinician at the time the visit was transferred into the data system.
“We want residents to know immediate support is available and we are currently assessing ways to expand critical services, particularly around prevention,” says WCDHHS Deputy Director Trista Piccola. “We also have a team of community leaders taking a hard look at how to reduce the stigma that is still associated with reaching out for help.”
The Walworth County DHHS provides assessment, counseling, detoxification, and residential treatment of youth and adults with alcohol and/or drug addiction. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (262) 741-3200. Information is also available at www.co.walworth.wi.us/351/Behavioral-Health.
Those seeking help are also encouraged to dial 2-1-1. Among other things, 2-1-1 is a Wisconsin addiction recovery helpline that provides information, resources, and advocacy. A statewide resource, 2-1-1 is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It can also be accessed at https://211wisconsin.communityos.org.
The Walworth County Drug & Alcohol Coalition (WALCO DAC), a nonprofit organization launched in July 2017 in an effort to address the growing opioid epidemic, maintains a comprehensive Resource Guide featuring local treatment and counseling services, inpatient services, transitional housing, transportation options, and support groups. The guide can be found at https://walcodac.com/resources.
Family and friends with loved ones affected by substance use disorders should be prepared to save their lives using Narcan, the FDA-approved medication used to reverse the effects of opioids. WALCO DAC is certified to provide Narcan training and doses. To schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. WCDHHS has a self-serve overdose aid kit in its lobby that can be accessed Monday through Friday until 7 p.m. Free doses of Narcan are also available at Open Arms Free Clinic during clinic hours Monday through Thursday. Information about Narcan can be found at https://walcodac.com/narcan.