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Onondaga County officials issue warning after a recent spike in overdoses

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Just days before Thanksgiving, the Onondaga County health department recorded 14 overdoses in a 24-hour span.

Mariah Senecal-Reilly, the Mental Health and Substance Use Initiatives Program Coordinator for the Onondaga County Health Department, said it’s not uncommon for metropolitan areas like Syracuse to see higher levels of overdoses, but this was still above average.

“So we do have a larger occurrence of overdoses on a daily basis than some of our rural partners and other counties,” said Senecal-Reilly. “But 14 is quite a lot for a 24-hour period.”

She said this was concerning enough for her department to issue a warning.

“Our thought with it being so close to the holiday weekend to alert the public and anyone who may be using drugs that something was going on,” she said.

Since the county just started recording overdoses this year, there are no real trends to look back on regarding the holiday season. However, Senecal-Reilly said it’s pretty safe to say the holidays play some sort of factor in increased drug use.

“It's pretty reasonable to assume that during the holiday season there are a lot of emotional occurrences good or bad and that can be a strong trigger in starting use or beginning use again if someone's in recovery,” said Senecal-Reilly.

She said the county doesn’t exactly know which substances caused all 14 overdoses, but fentanyl was the culprit in nearly all of the county’s overdose deaths in 2020.

“So I don't think it's a huge jump to consider that fentanyl may have been the cause of these overdoses on the 23 and 24,” she said.

The county has lots of resources available including a naloxone distribution program and various Narcan training available for anyone who wants or needs it.

“People can feel a lot of stigma seeking out naloxone so we want to make it as easy as possible,” she said.

There’s also several treatment facilities such as Helio Health, ACR Health, and programs through Crouse Hospital and Upstate Medical University. Click here for more treatment resources regarding opioid addiction.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.