Pima County Officials See Increase In Fentanyl Deaths

PIMA COUNTY, AZ—The Pima County Health Department sent an alert to behavioral health and community providers Friday, notifying them about an increase in fentanyl overdose deaths, asking them to be alert, and providing a list of specific actions they can take to help slow the increase.

Since the beginning of the year, county officials said 32 people in Pima County have lost their lives to fentanyl, surpassing methamphetamine deaths for the first time. Deaths from fentanyl have been increasing since early 2019, and, if this trend continues, PCHD officials project more than 100 deaths for 2020.

“We track overdose deaths, and have seen an alarming rise in deaths from fentanyl, with more people in their 20s dying from overdose,” said Mark Person, Health Department Community Mental Health and Addiction Program Manager. “If this trend increases, we tragically may see almost 50 deaths in that age group by the end of the year, which would be an 85 percent increase.”

Fentanyl is extremely potent, frequently leading to accidental overdose when taken by itself or with other drugs or alcohol. Fentanyl is often mixed with other narcotics, like heroin, cocaine, or meth, leading to accidental ingestion and sometimes overdose.

“There are important parts many of us can play. One of public health’s roles is to make sure the providers in our community, who are doing lifesaving work, have current information that they can use to make the best decisions for those they serve,” said Person. “Even small steps we can all take at home can make a difference in pushing these numbers down.”

Anybody struggling with substance use, difficulty coping with increased stress, or having feelings of hopelessness can call 520-622-6000 or 1-866-495-6795, text 838255, or visit www.pimahelpline.org. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide you can also contact the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-825. In the event that health and safety are in immediate jeopardy, call 911 immediately.

The full version of the alert to providers can viewed at www.pima.gov/health and clicking on “Health Alerts.”

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This article originally appeared on the Tucson Patch