McHenry County officials say fatal overdoses are on the rise, but why escapes – Shaw Local

McHenry County has seen an “unusual increase” in fatal overdoses in the past 28 days, the McHenry County Health Department reported this week, alarming community members whose mission is to save people from drug addiction.

The county health department reported a 250% increase in the number of suspected overdose deaths in the past 28 days compared to the previous 28 days, department officials said in a news release.

So far this year, 24 deaths have been caused by drug overdoses and toxicology reports are still pending on seven cases, said Laura Crain, drug-free program coordinator at the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition. About five of the confirmed overdose deaths are also attributed to suicides rather than accidental overdoses, she said.

“We haven’t seen what we’ve seen in those 30 days for at least two years,” Crain said.

The news prompted Rob Mutert, owner of Warp Corps in Woodstock, to re-raise the question of the importance of funding prevention-focused programs in the community. Warp Corps provides space and options for teens and young adults in hopes of preventing them from becoming involved in drug and alcohol use and abuse.

“My biggest reaction to this information… surprise,” Mutert said. “This is such a significant net growth in overdoses in a very short time.”

Mutert said he “became very perplexed by the lack of leadership” and support from county officials regarding funding for prevention-based programs.

“There is no initiative to deal with this problem, so [that]) in five years, we won’t have the same number of young people getting into this drug use, and that comes with prevention programs,” he said.

The news comes as Crain prepares for the sixth annual Overdose Awareness Week, which includes an event beginning at noon Sunday in historic Woodstock Square. The event aims to remember those who have lost an overdose and to celebrate those who have recovered from a life of addiction, Crain said.

There will be training on the use of naloxone to prevent a fatal heroin overdose, a youth bike parade, live music and on-site resources.

The week will also be highlighted by Ride for Recovery, a 75-mile motorcycle ride through northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The ride begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Harley Davidson, 2235 S. Eastwood Drive in Woodstock, and ends at historic Woodstock Square, 114 N. Benton St. at 3 p.m. The cost is $20 for the driver and $10 for a passenger. . Registration is available at

While most overdose deaths in McHenry County are due to opioids and are often caused by fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, Crain could not explain the increase in fatal drug overdoses.

Two of the cases involved xylazine, a sedative drug intended for use in large animals, recently seen in local and national drug overdoses. It is not yet clear whether this drug is involved in the remaining seven deaths, she said, adding that she was concerned about the emergence of this new drug in the county.

One of the most recent drug overdoses did not involve opioids at all, but was the result of an inhalant, she said.

The concern is not just about fatal overdoses, but the increase in emergency room visits due to non-fatal overdoses, she said.

“Non-fatal opioid contact, we’re monitoring that too,” Crain said. “It’s a worrying number for us. … A lot is going on, multiple factors that make us say it’s beyond normal numbers. We can’t say why. We don’t see a particular hour of the day, a month or a particular holiday, there is simply no common theme [connecting the overdoses or fatalities].”

In the meantime, Mutert said he will continue to provide Warp Corps with options to prevent young people from indulging in drugs and alcohol. He will also continue to find financial support to one day see his dream of building a large community center come to fruition. This center would include space for skateboarding, art, music and other activities and resources under one roof.

“There’s a lot of money allocated at the county level to address these issues of recovery, treatment, sober homes and harm reduction and those are all amazing things that need to happen, and I would never support their funding,” he said. “We also need to spend a considerable amount of money and energy on prevention programs before these children are corrupted.”

In light of the rise in overdoses, the McHenry County Department of Health released guidelines for those who use or have a loved one who uses opioids.

Symptoms of opioid overdose include very small “pinpoint pupils”; extreme drowsiness or drowsiness; lack of breathing or slow, shallow breathing; choking or gurgling noises; a soft body; and pale, blue or cold skin.

If anyone suspects an overdose, they should immediately call 911, lay the person on their side and, if possible, give as many doses of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, as needed until the no one answers or the emergency services arrive.

Crain also advised calling 911. “We have a good Samaritan law. They can’t get in trouble even if they were using at the time,” she said.

Fentanyl is becoming more common, sometimes combined with other drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine. A dose as small as three grains of rice can be fatal.

To prevent an accidental fentanyl overdose, the county health department has directed residents to resources such as fentanyl test strips and naloxone, which can be ordered online through or by calling or emailing text the nonprofit at 224-297-4393.

Information about community resources, events and supplies are available on Live4Lali. Local substance use resources are available through the McHenry County Board of Mental Health or by calling the Illinois Opioids and Other Substances Hotline at 833-234-6343.

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