Burlington authorities respond to rash of overdoses
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - An already record-setting year for overdose calls in Burlington continues to get worse. Authorities say they have responded to nearly a dozen incidents in the last two days. Authorities say they have been called to an average of 39 overdoses per month this year. For context, from 2015 to 2016, there were six overdose responses per month.
Thursday was a busy day for first responders in Burlington -- one dozen drug overdoses and 34 additional calls believed to be drug-related.
“I shared it with my outreach team. I said, ‘Let’s get ready, let’s get ready, boots on the ground, grab your harm reduction packs and let’s go,” said Emily Korkosz, who works for the Turning Point Center in Burlington. “I think we have given out 30 today, and yesterday was about the same. We used to do like maybe six or seven a day so yeah, we have seen an increase.”
Fire crews say drug-related calls are increasing at an alarming rate. “I think we are averaging 39 a month for this year. Again, yesterday was 12 , so what is next month going to look like? I don’t know, but it does feel like, anecdotally, like something has changed,” said Burlington Fire Chief Michael LaChance, who says his crews have saved some people multiple times. “They are not seeing those emergency department visits to at least get some services. Those are the folks that we unfortunately see over and over.”
Last year, Burlington Police recorded 252 overdoses in the city. Burlington Police Chief John Murad says they’ve already seen more than 300 this year. He says they believe the supply of the highly addictive opioid fentanyl -- often laced with other dangerous drugs -- is behind the increase. “Oftentimes, the users themselves don’t know what is in that poly-drug mixture,” he said.
Murad just hopes the death rate associated with overdoses doesn’t go up, too. “The death rate has not risen commensurately. It’s higher than it has been, but it is not commensurate with the increase that we have seen in overdoses. But that is cold comfort, but it’s some comfort at least,” he said.
Vermont health officials are urging people to test their drugs before using them.
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