WORKING FOR YOU: Overdose rates double the weekly average for the year in Kanawha County

West Virginia

First responders have been dispatched to a staggering amount of overdose calls over the course of the last week.  

This investigation began when we heard a number of overdose calls dispatched on our scanner in the 13 Newsroom- several overdoses at a time, overdoses in vehicles, and more severe symptoms that usual experienced by overdose patients.

Overdoses are nothing new for our region, especially for first responders.

This week, though, they tell me has been out of the ordinary.  According to Metro 911, Kanawha County has seen a total of 35.  I reached out to the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority about it. 

Darren Johnson, a paramedic, said, “No, I didn’t think that was possible.”

35 overdoses in one week is double the weekly average for the year, according to data compiled from Metro 911 and Charleston Fire Department.

  • January: 69 overdoses
  • February: 62 overdoses
  • March: 82 overdoses
  • April: 62 overdoses
  • May: 81 overdoses*

If this week’s trend continues, August will see at least 140 overdoses. 

“The new shipments of opioids come into town,” Johnson said.  “Everybody gets in a rush to get their fix.”

But these overdoses, they said, are different.  First reponders said patients are more combative than usual, symptoms are more severe.  Some people refer to this phenomenon as a “bad batch”. 

“Actually,” Johnson said, “It’s a good batch because the drug dealers are putting in fentanyl and carfentanyl into the heroin.  It gives them a bigger boost and users feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck.”

“It’s tying up our ambulance crews,” he said. 

As far as those men and women responding, they’re staying the course, riding this wave out like they’ve always had to do.  They want you to keep in mind, “There is all kinds of help available if you’re willing to let us help you.”

*Note: Call numbers may not be exact, based on how they were logged in the CAD. These are only the calls labeled “overdose”. 

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