Franklin Co. Coroner reports ‘alarmingly high’ number of suspected fentanyl-related deaths

(New Hampshire State Police Crime Lab via STAT)
This photo from the New Hampshire State Police Crime Lab shows lethal doses of Heroin and fentanyl.(New Hampshire State Police Crime Lab via STAT)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The Franklin County Coroner’s Office is reporting an alarmingly high and unprecedented number of suspected fentanyl-related deaths.

It’s yet another spike in the opiate epidemic death toll that’s plaguing the community. 43 people have died between February 2nd and March 5th. 30 occurred within Franklin county and the other 13 were from surrounding counties. The coroner’s office said the overdoses do not include heroin and other opiates.

Overall, the coroner’s office reports a total of 55 fentanyl-related deaths during January and February 2017. That’s nearly half of all fentanyl-related overdose deaths in all of 2016.

“It’s killing everybody, unfortunately,” said recovering heroin addict Kyla Mize. “It’s just really, really scary.”

Mize has been clean for almost 8 months, going through recovery at the MaryHaven Women’s Center.

“I’m really blessed to be alive, to be here today,” she said.

Mize said she’s not surprised to hear about the coroner’s report.

“It only takes a little bit of it to feel like a lot of heroin,” she said.

She inadvertently took fentanyl twice because the heroin she had was cut with it. Both times she overdosed.

“It took about five shots of Narcan the first time to bring me back,” said Mize. “I didn’t take it seriously at all. It was like, ‘Oh, that was good stuff now’. That’s how the addict mind works, unfortunately.”

After cheating death twice, she said she’s taking full advantage of the new life she’s been given, working hard on her recovery.

“I’m a mother. I’m working towards getting my other son home and I’m a full-time mom to a two-month-old. He’ll be two months old tomorrow,” said Mize. “I was given a second chance and I’m not going to blow that.”

However, there’s almost always a waiting list of weeks or more in order for addicts to get help.

Mize said she considered herself lucky, able to get placed quickly because she was pregnant.

“I believe all of our beds are full right now and we have a wait list going,” said Alisha Rinehart with Braking Point Recovery Center.

The facility opened on January 3rd.

Rinehart said their primary diagnosis is heroin addiction, but she isn’t surprised by the high number of fentanyl-related deaths.

“I think people know that they’re abusing it, definitely. I just don’t know that they know the level in which they can use it and not die at this point,” she said.

Rinehart said there’s a shortage of detox beds readily available for addicts wanting to get clean.

“People are coming, people are walking in off the street, people are homeless on the street coming in saying, ‘Hey, I see a sign out here. It talks about detox. I need this. What do I need to do to get in?,'” she said.

In their facility, they have 16 beds, all of them in use with a 1-2 week waiting list.=

“I think the more treatment that we can provide the better,” said Rinehart.

Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz leads an Opiate Crisis Task Force, created in August 2016. The community-based effort addresses treatment, prevention and education, law enforcement, legislation and recovery.

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