August was a month of extremes in Monroe County’s fight against opioids: The lowest number of overdose deaths recorded since the sheriff’s office started keeping track in January, and the highest number of Narcan uses to reverse an overdose.
The commander of the county’s heroin task force, Andrew DeLyser, said the month could be a statistical anomaly, and he said the numbers — even the decrease in fatal overdoses — are still cause for concern.
“I want to make this very clear,” he said at a press conference Friday. “We’re not here to celebrate anything. We’re not here to proclaim victory; we’re not here to say what a great job everybody has done. We’re very, very early in this process.”
DeLyser said that Narcan, which can stop an overdose from being fatal, could be masking the scope of the epidemic. More businesses and public facilities are offering trainings and making the lifesaving drug available, he said. Narcan use does not have to be reported to the police, and DeLyser said that means the number of overdoses could be undercounted.
But that’s a risk he’s willing to take, he said.
“If providing Narcan might make it harder for us to track the problem, so be it. I could never imagine telling a family member that their loved one died, and they could have been saved by a drug that was readily available, but we made the decision not to provide it,” said DeLyser.
The county’s hope in releasing the data is to get more people talking about it, DeLyser said.
“I still get a lot of feedback from the community from people who know what I do, who say, ‘Hey, what are you doing now?’ and I’ll tell them and they’ll say, ‘Oh, is that a problem?’” he said.