Opioid deaths spike in McHenry County, rage in suburbs

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The onslaught of opioid deaths so far in 2017 is not just a city phenomenon.

There were five in McHenry County just last week, the I-Team has learned. Most involved heroin.

While 568 people have died from "accidental" heroin and fentanyl overdoses in Cook County so far in 2017, Chicago's suburban counties report at least 225 opioid deaths so far this year.

There have been 53 confirmed drug overdose deaths so far this year in McHenry County, the ABC7 I-Team has learned. That is just shy of the total number (56) for all of 2016. Many are attributable to heroin and fentanyl-or a combination of both, investigators said.

"It has been a terrible week for families of our deceased in McHenry County and our epidemic continues to worsen," said McHenry County Coroner Dr. Anne Majewski on Monday following a series of autopsies.

The staggering numbers of overdose deaths is contained in data for January to September 2017 obtained by the ABC7 I-Team and reveals no let-up in the grip that opioid addiction has on this metro region.

The Cook County figures, include 387 opioid deaths so far this year in the city of Chicago.

Of the suburban counties that have provided information to the I-Team, Will County has the most opioid deaths to date with 49. Lake County stands at 45 OD deaths, DuPage County currently has 42 and Kane County reports in with 35.

All of the numbers appear to be about where they were for 2016, but that was a year in which overdose deaths spiked sharply. DuPage County last year saw a 53 percent increase in OD deaths.

"There is also a continued move from heroin to heroin and fentanyl or fentanyl as the only drug," said DuPage County Coroner Richard A. Jorgensen on Monday.

"Not only is every death a personal tragedy but it has also placed a heavy burden on the office's budget," said Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. "I have had to request a 17 percent increase (for 2018) over last year's (2017) request. We are also currently trending 8 percent over the 2017 budget as well."

The number of deaths comes even as record numbers of victims are being saved by the opioid antidote known as Narcan. Overdose fatalities reported so far in 2017 outpace the number of homicides in Chicago area counties-and in the collar counties by a wide margin.
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