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Opioid overdoses spike in summer after spring slowdown

Monroe County
The Monroe Crime Analysis Center's map of opioid overdoses in August shows they were concentrated in the City of Rochester, but law enforcement officials say the overdose epidemic affects all parts of Monroe County.

Opioid overdose deaths in July reached their second-highest monthly total since Monroe County law enforcement agencies started tracking the data at the beginning of 2018.

Seventeen people died of overdoses in July, according to the Monroe County Heroin Task Force, up from a low of four people in April.

Summer months have often been deadlier than the rest of the year for drug users, but Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Favata, who works on the task force, said law enforcement leaders are still looking for an explanation.

“We do not have an answer to the fluctuation. Why does it go so low, and then, the following month, it spikes,” Favata said. “People say, ‘Oh, it was a bad batch.’ That’s untrue.”

Favata said the one consistent ingredient in the overdose deaths he sees is fentanyl.

“That’s what’s deadly. That’s what’s killing people. And you can’t just say, ‘Well, I’m only using this substance or that substance, so I’m not worried about fentanyl,’ ” Favata said. “You don’t have a choice. It’s so, so often laced in with other drugs.”

Favata’s work in the heroin task force is largely focused on meeting people who have overdosed within the last 24 to 48 hours and encouraging them to start treatment for withdrawal or addiction.

“I will meet with people wherever they are,” Favata said. “I come with no judgment.”

“I will take you to treatment in the front of the police car,” he said, emphasizing that he’s not looking to arrest people who are seeking help.

Favata’s tactics reflect a changing strategy in law enforcement.

“The enforcement part we’ve been doing since the beginning of time,” Favata said. “The most important piece of this is the outreach and education.”

It’s simple economics, Favata said: “What we learned in the last two or three years here is supply and demand. If we can curb the demand, the supply won’t matter.”