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Wheeling Police Department issues overdose spike alert

WHEELING — The Wheeling Police Department is alerting the public about a spike of opioid-related overdoses that have occurred in the city over the last week.

The department just finished 2020 by responding to the highest yearly overdose total in five years.

In the last seven days, police and fire department personnel have responded to 16 overdoses.

Three people died, according to preliminary investigations, due to overdose. Department public information officer Philip Stahl said six of those overdoses came Wednesday.

“The last week or so, it has really flared up,” Stahl said. “Normally, we send out a text alert, which we started in June 2019, to let at-risk people know overdoses are happening and let people who care for them know to watch out.

“This time, we chose to put out a non-text alert to let people know that the trends aren’t looking good,” he added.

The public can sign up for the “Overdose Spike Alert” text messaging system at ohiocountyemergency.com.

There is a possibility, Stahl said, that more potent forms of opioids are now being dealt. Among the overdoses, police and fire departments are seeing heroin, heroin mixed with fentanyl, just fentanyl or a pill concoction created in some cocktail. That is leading first responders to at times use multiple doses of naloxone — which blocks the effects of opioids — for one person.

“People aren’t just getting one dose,” he said. “They’re getting two or three doses to regain consciousness.”

According to the department’s crime analyst, most of the overdoses happened on Wheeling Island and the Center/South Wheeling area.

In 2020, the department responded to 230 overdoses, a five-year high.

Stahl said that, at the start of 2020, overdose rates were trending down. The COVID-19 pandemic could be a factor, but that remains hard to say with certainty.

“We don’t yet have enough data to say if circumstances surrounding peoples lives were a factor,” Stahl said. “It’s hard to gauge. We’re still analyzing data.”

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