BENNINGTON — A Bennington County resident was among 11 Vermonters who died of an accidental opioid overdose in January, according to the state health department’s latest available data.
All of the deaths involved fentanyl, an increasingly growing driver of opioid-related fatalities in the state. In last year’s 157 overdose deaths, fentanyl was seen in nearly 90 percent of the cases — the biggest proportion that the state has recorded in the past two decades.
“It’s more deadly, what’s available out there,” said Tom Haley, director of the Turning Point Center of Bennington.
According to the CDC, illegal drug makers often mix illicitly manufactured fentanyl with cocaine or heroin to increase the euphoric effects — with or without the user’s knowledge.
The 11 overdose deaths in January include other southern Vermonters: one from Windham County and two from Rutland County.
So far this year, Haley said, the Bennington recovery center has seen more opioid overdoses in general than in previous years. But he said this is partly because the center’s access to information has been enhanced this year.
The center, located at 465 Main St., is participating in a local project where recovery coaches join first responders in emergency calls involving substance abuse. After the coronavirus pandemic hit Vermont, the center has also been distributing “harm reduction kits,” which include the opioid antidote naloxone and the Turning Point Center’s contact information.
“We have more ways to get information,” Haley said.
January’s fatal overdose number is one fewer than in January 2020, but emergency medical visits for nonfatal overdoses is up year on year. Of 10,000 emergency department visits statewide in January, 25.7 were due to nonfatal overdoses; the rate in the same month last year was 15.2, according to a state health department released this month.
The department said in another report that the higher rate of overdose-related emergency visits might be influenced by factors such as generally fewer people visiting emergency departments and urgent care centers right now.