July 2, 2024

Marion County begins releasing quarterly reports of drug overdose deaths for the first time

Marion County has begun releasing quarterly reports of drug overdose deaths. Officials say they hope it will help the community respond faster to trends. - Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Marion County has begun releasing quarterly reports of drug overdose deaths. Officials say they hope it will help the community respond faster to trends.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

The Marion County Coroner’s Office usually releases an annual report outlining the number of suspected overdose deaths.

That’s changing.

For the first time, the Coroner’s office and the health department plan to release a report every three months thanks to a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re hoping that if we present the community and community organizations and public organizations with the information quickly, they’ll be able to act more quickly in preventing these deaths,” said Andrea Bochenek, epidemiology manager at the Marion County Health Department.

She said that in the past, data might be over a year old.

The CDC grant is funding a forensic epidemiologist position to create a report by working with both the coroner’s office and the health department. That person is responsible for identifying trends and then alerting organizations like physicians and community workers that could respond through treatment and prevention, Bochenek said.

The grant-funded position will last through August of 2028.

The move comes as the Marion County prosecutor’s office has announced its plan to target fentanyl dealers linked to overdose deaths. That plan involves using a 2018 law allowing prosecutors to bring higher penalties against dealers if a person they sell drugs to dies.

The first report released in July shows a nearly 30% decrease in overdose deaths compared with the same period in 2023.

2023 was the first year drug overdose deaths declined in the county since 2018, peaking in 2022 at over 800 deaths.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call, text or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

 

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