Public health alert: Kenosha County officials concerned about heroin overdoses

KENOSHA COUNTY (WITI) -- Kenosha County officials say they are concerned about the recent spike of drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths that have been occurring in Kenosha County.

Authorities believe three people died from heroin overdoses between Friday night, August 1st and Monday morning, August 4th. Toxicology testing will confirm if heroin or other drugs were a contributing factor in these deaths.

Now the Medical Examiner has issued a public health alert.

"There's something going on in the community. We don't know exactly what and we want the community to know what's going on. It'd be the same if there was a flu outbreak or any sort of disease outbreak," said Kenosha County M.E. Patrice Hall.

So far in 2014, there have been 15 confirmed deaths due to drug overdoses.  There are several more deaths that are awaiting toxicology results before being determined to be a drug overdose death.  At this time last year in 2013, there were 19 confirmed deaths due to toxicity (drug overdose).

"It's a relatively new problem, and it's not just Kenosha. It's nationwide, and the big thing that's going on is people who start out being addicted to prescription pain killers switch over to heroin," said Byron Wright of Kenosha Human Development Services.

The agency provides crisis counseling and mental health and substance abuse programs. Staff at the center and medical examiner's office say the transition from painkillers to heroin is rather common. There are now six drop off boxes throughout the county where people can safely get rid of unwanted prescription drugs.

"I don't think we can stress this enough, that recovery is possible and we need to believe that as an agency and we need to believe that as a community," said Kari Foss with Kenosha Human Development Services.

If you witness a drug overdose, please call 911 to get the person immediate medical attention. The Wisconsin legislature passed a law earlier this year giving some criminal immunity to anyone who reports an overdose.

Please call KDOG (Kenosha Drug Operations Group) -262-605-7930 if you have any leads or tips to provide to the police.

Other resources available in Kenosha County are: