Medical examiner's office warns of a steady increase in fentanyl drug-related deaths in Milwaukee

NOW: Medical examiner’s office warns of a steady increase in fentanyl drug-related deaths in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Memorial Day weekend brought some troubling news from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, they reported eight probable deaths likely caused by fentanyl.

Drug overdoses have been on the rise and Sara Schreiber, Forensic Technical Director of the Toxicology Lab for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, said fentanyl overdoses make up for majority of drug-related deaths in Milwaukee.

"About 80% of our drug-related deaths does contain fentanyl," said Schreiber.

Schreiber said it’s a trend they've been seeing for the last five years or so. The Milwaukee County dashboard that tracks overdoses notes that from 2019 to 2021, there's been about a 50% increase in overdoses.

Fire Captain Davide Polachowski of the Milwaukee Fire Department said that some victims don't even know they're drug of choice is laced with fentanyl.

"I've had a lot of people report to me who are regular substance abusers who have used cocaine or crack who all of a sudden wake up and there's fire department members standing there and they're completely shocked," said Captain Polachowski.

The Milwaukee Fire Department has been distributing "hope kits" since March. The kits include Narcan, fentanyl testing strips, a CPR mask and informational pamphlets and cards.

"Being in the fire department and I'm a paramedic...I've seen a lot of overdose and deaths that are just -- they're gut-wrenching," said Captain Polachowski.

He said EMS and the Milwaukee Fire Department has distributed hundreds of kits and said requests for the kits have only increased in communities most affected by fentanyl overdose deaths.

For Chelsea England, founder of the MKE Overdose Prevention organization, said she believes its going to take a while to see a turn on the fentanyl overdose issue in Milwaukee.

"Maybe it will be one of those things that gets worse before it gets better," said England.

England said she distributes about 75 Narcan kits a month for free since she began her organization in September 2021. She believes preventative measures such as Narcan and fentanyl strips should be easy to attain. She does so with hosting training and educational sessions with businesses and community members.

Schreiber and Fire Captain Polachowski said the best way to prepare is to have preventative measures in place such as Narcan, fentanyl test strips and look out for any sings of a potential overdose.

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