The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has issued a spike alert regarding a cluster of three suspected fentanyl-related overdose deaths that occurred in Utica on June 1st.
The fatalities all occurred within a short distance of each other in a section of West Utica. In one of the incidents, a yellow baggie containing a crystal-like substance was found, and at another, a knotted baggie with a white powdery substance was located (image below). Confirmation of the drugs involved will not be officially determined until toxicology reports are completed, but officials believe them to be an opioid —likely fentanyl— mixed with other drugs.
“To lose three people in one day to overdose is a tragedy, especially since their losses could have been avoided,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “The unpredictability and degree of contamination in today’s street drug supply is dangerously high. People who use drugs —and their families— need to be aware that what they are being sold is likely not what they are getting, and the consequences, which are evident here, can be deadly.”
Harm reduction approaches have proven to prevent death, injury, disease, overdose, and substance misuse, and are being adopted nationwide to address the public health overdose epidemic driven primarily by the proliferation of highly-potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl in the illicit drug market. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, harm reduction is an effective approach that emphasizes engaging directly with people who use drugs to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of those served and offer low-threshold options for accessing substance use disorder treatment and other healthcare services. It includes the spectrum of strategies that meet people “where they are” and may serve as a pathway to additional prevention, treatment and recovery services.
The Overdose Prevention Team encourages the public to go to the Opioid Task Force website to find out where they can access treatment and recovery resources locally, including Narcan-by-Mail at www.ocopioidtaskforce.org. Additionally, the public has free, anonymous 24/7 access to naloxone, fentanyl test strips and other wellness supplies at the new Public Health Kiosk located at the Giotto Center at 1002 Oswego St., Utica.