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What’s behind the recent spike in overdoses for Richmond County?

FILE — This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York.
FILE — This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York.(Mark Lennihan | AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 11:11 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - “Cluster of overdoses” that is how the Georgia Department of Health described a recent spike in overdose cases in Richmond county. The issue has been escalating since the start of the pandemic and first responders say it isn’t getting any better.

“It’s a scary trend we’re seeing that this is rising,” said Steven Vincent, Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service vice president.

For January and February DPH data shows that Richmond county ranked in the top five Georgia counties with the most overdose ER visits.

“Anywhere you think of we’re responding. It’s everywhere. It’s all over the CSRA,” said Vincent.

He says rarely a day goes by where crews aren’t responding to an overdose call.

“There’s some days we get two or three and there’s other days we get 10 or more,” he said.

To be in the top five, Richmond County had to have more than 15 overdose hospital visits in one month. AU Health alone saw 15 overdose patients in January and 11 in February.

“What really worries us is that a lot of the patients we’re seeing, once you know we are able to stabilize them and talk to them. They didn’t realize what drug they were taking,” said Vincent.

State health care workers say the most recent concern in the county is counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid. Vincent says not only are there more cases but the cases are more deadly. That’s why Gold Cross is looking to form a specialized overdose unit.

“Their sole purpose is to go out on these drug overdose calls, there’ll be more specialized training involved, but it won’t just be responding to the one call, and then taking them to the hospital. These teams would be focused on after-action programs as well,” he said.

The overdose unit plan is still in the early stages, but Vincent says they’re working with local hospitals to try to get the program going this year because they say the problem is just getting worse.

If you have drugs you need to get rid of the Richmond County sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies will take part in national drug take back day on April 24th. For more information on the locations, you can safely dispose of drugs visit Area law enforcement taking part in National Drug Take Back Day with disposal locations.

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