Fatal Drug Overdoses In City Surpass All Of 2020

Jamestown Police Department P-J file photo

In just the first four and a half months of the year, the number of drug overdoses resulting in death in the city of Jamestown has surpassed all of 2020.

The increase, part of a trend over the last few years seen not just locally, was discussed by members of the Jamestown Police Department this week.

“Many new strategies were discussed but there are still some ideas and methods that have not changed and are essential in preventing these tragedies from occurring,” Chief Timothy Jackson said in a message posted to Facebook on Tuesday evening. “One of the most important ideas is that decreasing overdoses and narcotics use must be a community effort. Along with this effort, it will take a collaboration among multiple agencies to curtail narcotics use and ultimately reduce the number of overdose victims.”

“Law enforcement is only one entity and alone cannot achieve this objective,” he added. “With this, the Jamestown Police Department remains committed to fighting this issue in Jamestown and will continue to work with other agencies and the community in an attempt to eliminate this problem from our community.”

According to information provided by JPD, officers investigated 12 fatal drug overdoses that occurred last year in Jamestown. So far this year, the department already has investigated 14 overdoses that have resulted in death.

Responses from officers to “drug overdose incidents” also have trended upward. On average, over a five-year span, the department has responded to 34 calls a year; however, that number jumped to 60 calls in 2020 and 59 calls so far this year.

In April alone, officers responded 18 times to reported drug overdoses.

Jackson, in a report detailing the increase, noted that calls for service “represent only overdoses known to law enforcement and, therefore, are only a snapshot of the total number of overdoses in Jamestown.”

In March, the county’s Department of Mental Hygiene and Department of Health and Human Services released data on rates of overdoses and overdose deaths in 2020. Both showed dramatic increases — trends county health officials said were consistent with state and national numbers.

Overdose fatalities increased last year, but at a much lower rate than the rise in non-fatal overdoses, attributed to effective harm reduction, emergency and treatment efforts undertaken during the pandemic.

“Every death related to this pandemic, whether directly or indirectly, is tragic,” said Pat Brinkman, Chautauqua County director of Community Mental Hygiene Services, before she retired last month. “Reports from our region and the nation are revealing the toll the pandemic has had – on physical health, certainly, but also on emotional health and on substance use. While Chautauqua County has not been immune to these trends, we are extremely grateful for the life-saving efforts of individuals and agencies in our county who have helped address addiction throughout this difficult time. As a result of their work, lives have been saved.”

The county experienced a 54% increase in non-fatal overdoses from 2019 to 2020. Over the same time frame, overdose fatalities rose 18%, from 33 in 2019 to 39 in 2020.

“One overdose death is one too many,” said Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director. “The efforts of our many partners throughout the county has kept an increase in fatalities from being even worse. This data reveals that emergency, harm reduction, treatment, and outreach efforts, all undertaken in the midst of a pandemic, are helping. We plan to continue working with partners throughout the county to build on these efforts to help more county residents who are battling addiction.”

Jamestown’s police chief plans to discuss the increase in overdoses and answer questions from the public during a Facebook Live Q&A from 1-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25. Questions can be submitted to the Jamestown Police Department on Facebook or through direct message.

“The recent increase in overdose deaths related to narcotics use is by far one of the greatest concerns that we have for our citizens,” Jackson said.


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