Will County Coroner Patrick O’Neil has been tracking heroin deaths for a long time, and sounded the alarm several years ago when he believed the problem was reaching epidemic proportions.
Initially, he saw five or six deaths in a year, but then he saw those numbers double, triple and quadruple.
This year, the county could have its worst year ever as far as deaths due to heroin and opiate overdoses. The reason? Fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opiate, blamed in the recent death of musician Prince, that is cheaper than heroin and is often mixed with it, or offered to an unsuspecting buyer in the guise of being heroin.
Last year, Will County recorded 53 overdose deaths linked to heroin and fentanyl — more than the 51 deaths caused by traffic accidents in the county. The numbers were even worse in Cook County, where the 526 heroin and fentanyl deaths last year were more than double the 240 traffic fatalities. […]
The state’s Heroin Crisis Act, which took effect Jan. 1, will, in part, increase access to naloxone, which local police departments and paramedics have credited with saving lives.
Without the access to naloxone — the new law also requires it be made available at pharmacies — Will County could “easily have over 300″ heroin related deaths, O’Neil said.