La Crosse County sees an uptick in overdose deaths

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 7:29 AM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Within the first two weeks of 2023, La Crosse County has seen five potential drug overdose deaths.

“The reason we call them potential is because we have to have an autopsy and toxicology performed,” La Crosse County Corner Beth Lubinski said. “That takes several months to get confirmation, but what we’re seeing is drug paraphernalia on scene and we believe that there’s more than likely fentanyl in that in those substances.”

Four of those suspected overdoses were just in the City of La Crosse.

“Initially, what that tells us is that there are drugs in our community right now, that drug users are having an extreme adverse reaction,” La Crosse Police Chief Shawn Kudron said.

Fast forward to the end of January, Lubinski says the number of overdose deaths had doubled to 10 county-wide.

“In 2022, we had 40 confirmed overdoses, which unfortunately is the record in our county,” Lubinski said. “In 2021, we had 33,s o it’s gradually gone up over the past year. We’re estimating we’ll be close to that 40 number this year.”

When officers are responding to the city, Kudron says the preservation of life is the top priority.

“Using the medical tools that we have, which include Narcan, and doing everything we can to assist our first responders through the fire department as well as our emergency medical staff,” Kudron said.

Additionally, Laura Runchey with the La Crosse County Health Department says there are resources for community members too.

“Anyone who has access or anyone who wants access to Narcan in the city of La Crosse and the county of La Crosse has access to Narcan for free,” Runchey said. “We also have a lot of fentanyl test strips out in the community called Recovery has fentanyl test strips.”

If fentanyl is to blame for the overdose, law enforcement want to know where it’s coming from.

“Who’s bringing these poisons and distributing these poisons in our community and looking at it from an investigative standpoint,” Kudron.

Officials also want to continue educating the public.

“Understanding our Good Samaritan law, calling 911, doing rescue breathing, as well as administering Narcan just to make sure that the person involved has the best chance of survival,” Runchey said.

For information on Narcan and Fentanyl testing strips in La Crosse County, you can contact the county health department.