American overdose crisis may have claimed 8 local lives since the beginning of November 2023; 54 local residents suspected to have died of fatal overdoses this year in Monroe County

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – AUGUST 31: Community members gather at Monroe County Courthouse during International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, 2023. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – November 22, 2023

The Monroe County Coroner’s Office is investigating a string of suspected drug overdose deaths, with eight cases under investigation since the start of November, Coroner Joani Stalcup said Wednesday to the Bloomingtonian.

Awaiting toxicology reports that may take several weeks, Stalcup highlighted that evidence collected at each death site suggested a possible link to substance-related fatal overdoses.

Stalcup emphasized a concerning trend, warning the public about the addition of various forms of fentanyl to substances such as methamphetamine and even marijuana. “Monroe County has many resources available, including Narcan and Fentanyl test strips, for those struggling with substance use dependency,” she added.

Comparing current statistics with the same period in the previous year, Stalcup noted a slight decrease in substance overdose-related deaths. “In 2022, by this time of year, we had investigated 58 overdose-related deaths. This year, including the pending toxicology results of these eight cases, it will put us at 54 such deaths so far,” she stated. “Though the numbers show improvement, it remains 54 deaths too many.”

Recent police summaries outlined several possible overdoses and deaths of younger people.

One case, detailed officers responding to a potential overdose at Crawford Apartments on Henderson Street, where a 49-year-old male passed away after being transported to the hospital on November 18, 2023.

In another incident on November 6, 2023, officers were called to assist a 47-year-old female possibly overdosing at an address on West 3rd St. The female was taken to a hospital for treatment. The report doesn’t say whether she lived, or died.

Moreover, the police responses included the discovery of deceased individuals, such as a 39-year-old male found unresponsive at the Monroe County Public Library on November 2, 2023. His cause of death was later identified as an overdose. Then, last weekend, a 43-year-old man was found deceased in a restroom at Swichyard Park, when a custodian discovered him. The death is suspected to be an overdose.

Amidst these local overdoses, President Joe Biden convened a national and homeland security meeting to address the surge in illicit fentanyl into the United States. In the meeting, held on November 21, President Biden stressed the urgency of reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, citing its importance in understanding foreign drug trafficking organizations.

The President reiterated his commitment to combatting the illicit fentanyl crisis, highlighting its devastating impact on individuals aged 18-44. As part of his Unity Agenda, President Biden urged Congress to allocate funds to strengthen addiction treatment, and overdose prevention measures, and to enhance efforts in curbing drug trafficking.

According to the White House, efforts to combat global illicit drug trafficking received a boost following discussions between President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China on November 15. Both leaders announced renewed cooperation aimed at reducing the flow of precursor chemicals driving illicit fentanyl and synthetic drug trafficking.

The Biden-Harris Administration said ongoing efforts to disrupt trafficking networks and increase border security include significant investments and diplomatic negotiations. The partnership between the United States and China marks a step in combating the global illicit drug trade, addressing a crisis that claims the lives of tens of thousands of Americans annually.

The joint efforts outlined in the recent announcements from the White House aim to strengthen law enforcement actions, regulate precursor chemicals, and dismantle criminal organizations involved in the production and distribution of illicit fentanyl, underscoring the urgency of a coordinated, global response to this issue.

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