DuPage County Coroner Reports Spike in Overdose Deaths

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DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen announced the county is experiencing an unprecedented spike in overdose deaths.

Recent Spike in Overdose Deaths

From 2016 to 2019 there were between 95 and 98 reported opioid-related deaths each year.

In the past three weeks DuPage County has recorded 22 overdose deaths. Compare that to the exact date range from one year ago:

“We had five overdoses in this period of time so it’s really not even comparable. There’s just a huge increase in overdose deaths,” said Jorgensen.

Compiling and analyzing statistics, the coroner’s office attempts to establish trends based on age, demographics or location to better understand the nature of the overdoses. No such pattern has emerged.

“Even when we had a number of deaths on the same day, they weren’t in the same area – so we don’t think we have a bad batch of drugs. It’s all over the county, it’s all over age ranges, so we don’t see any groupings,” said Jorgensen.

Reason for the Recent Spikes

That has Jorgensen and the experts he consults with drawing a distinct relationship between the recent spike and the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine.

Brad and Jessica Gerke are recovering addicts and co-founders of the 516 Light Foundation, a 501c3 aimed at helping people in recovery from addiction.

“The numbers are definitely going up, which was something Jessica and I were worried about when this all started coming to light,” said Brad Gerke. “People, whether they are in recovery or still out there using, the fear of economic insecurity, job loss, anxiety depression.”

What to do during COVID-19

To adapt and conform to the current CDC guidelines on social distancing, the Gerkes have moved many of the services they offer to an online platform, hoping to fill the void left vacant by cancelled support group meetings.

“We offer that virtual tele-counseling. And that in fact has gone up tremendously and we have all adjusted to the new norm of remoting and tele-counseling,” said Jessica Gerke.

Jorgensen and the Gerkes are encouraging those struggling with addiction to engage, or re-engage, with support services.

Naperville News 17’s Kevin Jackman reports.