ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — During the last two years, the opioid epidemic has claimed nearly 140,000 lives across the U.S.
Winnebago County has been hit hard too, and Coroner Bill Hintz uses a visual reminder to track those lost to drug overdoses.
In his office, Hintz keeps a map of all the overdose deaths in the county for the entire year, marking each one with a push pin.
“It’s nice to be able to have a visual, where you can see all of your numbers that way, on the map,” Hintz said. “It gives you a really firm idea of where everything is.”
Hintz says the push pins help him recognize patterns.
“What we started to notice is that a lot more of the numbers were on the East side of town,” he said. “That’s where you see a little bit larger force of our numbers.”
There are 114 overdose deaths on record for 2019, down from 137 at the same time last year.
Hintz says that doesn’t show the entire picture.
“The caveat is, we still have approximately two to three weeks of toxicology results that we don’t have back from our lab yet,” he said. “I firmly believe that we will be at the same number we were at the end of this year as last year, or we might be slightly higher.”
Hintz believes part of the problem can be attributed to the use of synthetic drugs.
“Instead of, maybe, two or three different types of drugs in the individual’s system, we’re noticing five, six, seven different types of drugs, and a few of those being the synthetic version of these drugs,” he said. “I personally don’t believe individuals realize everything they’re getting, when they buy a certain drug. I think that when they buy what they’re looking for, I think there’s a large mixture within in it, that they don’t realize what they’re taking.”
Hintz wants to share what he’s learning with residents, because he says education is important to reversing the trends.
“I know I can’t bring them back. I know I can’t do that. But, if I can, offer some support and education,” he said. “I just feel like that’s what I’m able to try and help give back to the community.”
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