BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Jefferson County Coroner’s Office is sounding the alarm about a shift in deaths – reporting that drug overdoses are a prominent problem in the community.
According to reports, there are more opioid deaths than gun deaths or car accidents in Jefferson County. No matter where you live in Jefferson County, Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said they’re seeing a big spike in overdose deaths.
“That’s very concerning and that’s something that our partners that work with the living addicts are going to have to deal with,” Yates said.
Of 417 confirmed overdoses in 2022, Yates said 339 were because of fentanyl – hitting the Black community even harder.
“The overdoses that we see increasing in the Black community,” Yates said. “That’s horrible and we at the coroner’s office provide you those end numbers—what’s more concerning is we are now having individuals at a high rate in the black community becoming addicted to opioids where they weren’t before.”
This message is echoed by the Jefferson County Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Darlene Traffanstedt.
“You really need to face the reality that it is someone in your network that’s at risk for an overdose, given what we’re seeing right now,” Traffanstedt said. “We’re taking every opportunity that we’re given to get the word out.”
You can go through free naloxone and fentanyl test strip training online to be able to carry strips to test substances or to give the drug overdose drug reversal spray that could potentially save a life.
“The fentanyl test strip is not a perfect test. There are no perfect lab tests that are without false positives, false negatives,” Traffanstedt said. “There is really no safe use of drugs at this time for what is available for sale in our market.”
Ian Henyon is the Executive Director at the Birmingham Recovery Center, which offers programs for group and individual therapy with an emphasis on medical treatment. He said many of his clients didn’t know they were consuming fentanyl.
“That’s a majority of the overdoses that we’re seeing as far as our clients are the ones that are exposed to it through other substances,” Henyon said.
Judd Drake is the Program Director at Changed Lives Christian Center, a faith-based ministry that offers traditional housing for men who are suffering from a substance use disorder and recovering from homelessness.
“We have seen the need for our services grow with the increasing overdose rate,” Drake said. “We are doing our part in providing a continuum of care and support for those transitioning out of a treatment program or a recovery house.”
The Jefferson County Department of Health has a list of recovery resources on its website.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) Hotline can connect you to a number of hotlines in the state for help: 1-844-307-1760. Other resources our sources spoke highly of include the Addiction Prevention Coalition of Birmingham and DEA One Pill Can Kill.