Chittenden County Sees Spate of Overdoses to Start Year | Off Message

Chittenden County Sees Spate of Overdoses to Start Year


Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine
Seven people in Chittenden County were treated for drug overdoses during a seven-hour span overnight, the Vermont Department of Health said Friday.

Officials say it's unusual for the University of Vermont Medical Center to see more than one or two such cases on a busy night.

The spate of overdoses, likely opioid related, prompted an afternoon press conference attended by Health Commissioner Mark Levine and UVM Medical Center president Eileen Whalen.

"It's only January 4, and we've already seen multiple overdoses in a short period of time," Levine said.

None of the individuals treated at the medical center's emergency department died, Whalen said. One person resuscitated in the field who was later brought in to the emergency department did die, though Whalen told inquiring reporters she didn't know whether the death was related to drug use.

Levine said the hospital's busy night was in addition to four other recent overdoses within the county that were reversed outside of the ER.

Though lab results weren't yet available to confirm whether the drugs used contained fentanyl or any opioid, Levine said many of the patients reported using a white powdered substance and "at least one may have reported a black powder, which connotes possibly black tar heroin." Black tar heroin is less common in Vermont, he said.

Levine tried to address opioid users directly during his prepared remarks, encouraging them to view health care providers as able and willing partners in treating their addiction.

A record 107 people in Vermont died from opiate overdoses during 2017, the third straight year the record had been set. Preliminary data provided by the Health Department tallied 82 opioid-related deaths during the first nine months of 2018, putting it on track to match the 2017 total.

"It will be over 100," Levine said.