WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — The drug problem in southwestern Pennsylvania is ramping up.
New data shows overdose-related deaths are once again increasing. One area showing a significant increase is Washington County, and investigators hope that trend doesn’t continue.READ MORE: 5,000-6,000 Gallons Of Gas Spilled Into Washington County Stream
“It’s a very high-powered opiate,” said Washington County Deputy District Attorney John Friedman about fentanyl.
A high-powered opiate that Friedman said suppliers are using to sometimes fool their buyers.
“Someone thinking they’re buying cocaine and are expecting a certain reaction are winding up ingesting pure fentanyl and have a very different and often fatal reaction,” said Friedman.
In 2020, the Washington County Coroner’s Office saw 102 overdose-related deaths. Eighty-six of those deaths involved fentanyl.
Washington County Coroner Tim Warco hasn’t seen a number that high since 2016.
“This drug problem is deep. It touches all levels, race, creed. There are no barriers,” said Warco.
However, he said 2021 isn’t looking much better. Right now, Warco’s office is investigating 54 overdose-related deaths. Of those, 36 involve fentanyl.READ MORE: Liquor Control Board Report Reveals Unflavored Vodka As Top-Selling Drink In Pennsylvania
Local organizations are trying to address the problem.
“The pandemic caused a lot of isolation,” said Jodi Axe, clinical director at Allied Addiction Recovery.
Allied Addiction Recovery serves multiple counties in the area, including Washington. Axe said in the past month, they’ve seen a huge uptick in people coming in for help.
“One of the biggest parts is making people aware of what we do and where we are. Getting clients quickly within 24 hours of first making a call,” said Axe.
On top of that, Axe said it’s all about outreach and intervention.
“We make sure literature is out informing clients we are there,” said Axe. “Both the Washington County Coalition and the Mon Valley Coalition partner with local police forces, EMS and the DEA to have them involved with the coalition meetings so they know what we’re seeing and we know what they’re seeing.”
Warco said it’s also about prevention. He said he’s involved in a drug program that educates youth.MORE NEWS: Police: Brackenridge Homeowner Finds Man At Kitchen Table Eating Ice Cream On Thanksgiving Day
Meanwhile, in Allegheny County, new numbers show the highest overdose-related deaths since 2017. In 2020, the county saw 690 people die of an overdose. So far this year, there’ve been 168 overdose deaths.