News

8 drug overdose deaths in 24 hours in Will County

‘I feel as a public servant that we need to put that warning out’

Will County — The Will County Coroner is investigating eight probable overdose deaths across the county that occurred in less than 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday.

Will County Coroner Laurie Summers said the eight cases took place in Joliet, New Lenox, Lockport and Wilmington. Her office released an alert on Facebook warning residents “to understand that there is likely street drugs that contain lethal doses of fentanyl.”

“It’s bad,” Summers said. “And when you have that many [deaths] happen in less than 24 hours, I feel as a public servant that we need to put that warning out.”

Summers added she would not disclose the names, ages or genders of those who died until her office received the results from toxicology reports, which typically take eight to 12 weeks.

“It’s not like TV,” she said. “There’s actually a method, a scientific method, to do this.”

Lockport Deputy Police Chief Ron Huff said his department responded Monday to an apparent overdose death of a 31-year-old woman in her home in the 500 block of East Division Street. Huff said officers found what appeared to be heroin at the scene.

When asked if the Joliet Police Department was investigating any overdose deaths between Monday and Tuesday, Sgt. Dwayne English said officers had responded to the death of a 35-year-old woman in a guest room at the Star Inn on West Jefferson Street. Police were notified of that incident Monday.

In Wilmington, Chief Joseph Mitchell said his officers found a 41-year-old man dead of a suspected opioid overdose in a residence in the 32300 block of West River Road on Tuesday morning.

Mitchell urged residents in need of help with substance use to contact the police department for links to local resources.

“We try to help people who are in need,” he said. “We ask the community to reach out.”

County officials have been warning of the rising number drug overdoses since last year.

Late last year, Kathleen Burke, Will County’s director of substance use initiatives, said data from the coroner’s office showed the number of opioid deaths in 2021 were up significantly compared to 2020. She said there were 111 overdose deaths in the county in 2021 and 84 in 2020.

Burke said Wednesday the trend of increasing overdoses had continued during the first half of 2022. She said the county had recorded 40 overdose deaths over a four-month span this year alone.

“We need everybody to be on high alert,” Burke said.

She added the danger was due to the widespread inclusion of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine. Burke said fentanyl was being mixed with all sorts of other drugs. When users aren’t familiar with opioids, there is a risk of them overdosing. To combat the danger, Burke said users need to have Narcan, brand name of naloxone, on hand. The medicine is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Burke said her team also has worked to give out test strips to drug users so they can test whether fentanyl is in the drug they are using.

“It doesn’t matter what drug you use,” Burke said. “You need to have Narcan, and you shouldn’t use (other drugs) alone.”

Burke added that Narcan was available for anyone at several micro food pantries located throughout Will County. A map of the pantries is available at willcountyhealth.org/maps.

Burke said anyone in need of Narcan or other resources for those facing a substance use disorder can call her office at 708-205-5782.