Yesterday was a typical news day in Delaware. As we do every day, we started the morning searching for the important news of the day. We checked traffic to help you with your commute, we gathered information about that latest accidents, fires, police actions and all of the local happenings that you needed to know about. Being a typical news day, we didn’t report the steady stream of overdoses related calls that first responders were dispatched to throughout the day.
On any given day, there are around five to ten overdose incidents that we normally don’t report on. Rescue crews can spend a good part of their day responding to reports of people passed out in a car at a red light, a person slumped over the wheel at a local convenience store, someone passed out along the side of the road, behind a dumpster, inside a local motel room or even a bus stop outside of a police station. While most of these incidents don’t usually make the news, there are exceptions.
Finding a person who has overdosed inside a bathroom at a fast food restaurant or a gas station has also become a common occurrence for first responders. What’s not common is finding someone who has overdosed on heroin inside a brightly lit movie theater restroom. Last night, just after 9:30, police officers, along with rescue crews responded to a local movie theater in New Castle County for reports that a man had overdosed inside the bathroom.
It’s unclear if it was a child or another adult that discovered the 29-year-old man, who reportedly had a needle sticking out of his arm when he was found, and alerted authorities. As they always do, crews that responded to the scene administered NARCAN, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in the case of an overdose, before scooping him up and transporting him to Christiana Hospital. With the patient on his way to the hospital, onlookers and employees were likely left wondering what was going on or if the guy made it. The answer is we don’t know. We don’t know if the man survived or not.
This latest incident, while shocking to those that discovered the man, is just one indicator of a much larger problem. Overdoses are occurring all around us every day. In our neighborhoods, our workplaces, on the road and even the places we go to escape, like movie theaters. It’s not just the seedy motels and back alleys any longer.
New Castle County is not the only part of Delaware experiencing this overdose epidemic. Several deaths in Sussex County have prompted Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker to issues a statement urging the community to be aware of the uptick in deaths. She also warned that heroin could be laced with fatal amounts of fentanyl.
Two of the Sussex County deaths occurred in Ocean View. On Thursday, July 12, 2018, at 11:23 pm, officers from the Ocean View Police Department were called to a home on Central Avenue in Ocean View. Upon arrival, officers discovered the bodies of two males in their twenties, deceased due to an apparent overdose.
The victims had failed to show up for work at a local restaurant. Concerned co-workers responded to the home on Central Avenue. A co-worker peering through a window observed the men lying on the floor and alerted police, according to Ocean View Police Chief, Kenneth McLaughlin.
“Because of the rapid increase in deaths in Sussex County, we are issuing this warning now before we have the results of the toxicology screens on which substances were involved,” said Secretary Walker, a board-certified family physician. “These substances clearly are dangerous, especially those being used in Sussex County.
As of July 18, the Division of Forensic Science has reported that seven of the 12 deaths from suspected overdoses in Delaware during July have occurred in Sussex County; the rest occurred in New Castle County. Since the start of the year, Sussex County has accounted for about 22 percent of all deaths from suspected overdoses.
In 2017, Sussex County accounted for 64 of the 345 overdose deaths in the state, or about 18.5 percent of the total. In July 2017, four of the 21 deaths from suspected overdoses that month occurred in Sussex County; the rest happened in New Castle County.