skip to main content
The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

RICHARD A. JORGENSEN, MD, FACS
CORONER

DU PAGE COUNTY, ILLINOIS

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Contact: Richard Jorgensen, MD
630-407-2600

Public Safety Announcement:Surge in Overdose Deaths

 

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen MD would like to advise the citizens of DuPage County that there has been a unusual spike in the number of overdose deaths and non-fatal overdoses in the past three weeks. “ We have noticed an marked increase of deaths. In recent weeks there have been multiple deaths in the same day.” Statistics from last year (2019) show that we had 96 opioid overdoses. In the past three weeks we have had 20 overdose deaths, mainly due to opioids. We do not know if this is due to a change in the makeup of the drugs, drug usage on the streets or due to current COVID-19 related changes in society. After review of the social aspects of the recent deaths many of those who died were living alone, having personal or marital difficulty, depression and recent drug rehab or treatment.

Analysis of the 2019 data revealed that the age of those who were dying has trended to older age ranges. This average age of those who have died is 36. This is older than the average in 2019. Further, there has been no definitive geographic or demographic trends, these deaths are found in all areas of the county.

State's Attorney Bob Berlin was asked what his thoughts are about this surge in deaths."While we find ourselves in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 health crisis, it is important to remember that we are still facing a severe opioid epidemic that has claimed too many lives and must not be forgotten. Because of this, we must be vigilant in ensuring that resources allocated to fight COVID-19 are not taken from the resources previously intended to fight the opioid epidemic."

Brad & Jessica Gerke are colleagues in the fight against addiction. They are recovering addicts who are now dedicated to helping those suffering from addiction. Brad Gerke is Co-founder of 516 Light Foundation; Director of Operations, Banyan Treatment Center; DuPage County HOPE Task Force, Member. In light of the recent trend Dr Jorgensen reached out to Brad to inquire what he was seeing on the street level.  Brad responded that “he has been seeing a marked increase in all issues related to addiction” and stated,  “ I have gotten an increasing number of phone calls from those with concerns and  fresh relapses.” Further he stated, “I monitor social media and have seen a spike in fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the range of  3-6 per day.  I think this is due to a lack of in person communication and lack of ability to be with people. This void of connection takes away the primary treatment methods which are critical aspect of rehabilitation and recovery. This COVID – 19 environment leads to depression, anxiety, fear and worry about job security. This is all extremely difficult for addicts,  and those in recovery.”

Coroner Jorgensen concluded, “ If you know of people who are at high risk: known drug users, those living alone, having personal or marital difficulty, depression and recent drug rehab or treatment) please reach out and see if they need support or help. These are difficult times made worse when an individual has drug and/or mental health issues. We are all in this together and need to reach out to all of those who are vulnerable in this difficult time.”

 

                                                                                                      ###