October 22, 2021

2 more die of opioid overdose in Cortland

City, county officials say they are seeing a troubling trend

Two more people in the city of Cortland have died of an overdose in the last 10 days, bringing the number of overdose deaths to 20 in Cortland County this year, according to city police and county coroner.

“We did not have nearly that many last year,” County Corner Whitney Meeker said Monday afternoon.

In 2018, the county had four overdose deaths, according to the state Department of Heath’s website. From January 2019 to June 2019, there were three deaths, but the state has yet to update its reports to include the rest of 2019.

Meeker said she believed that there had been 10 deaths in 2019, but couldn’t fully remember off-hand.

She noted that overdose deaths account for most of the 34 autopsies performed so far this year.

On Monday, Cortland police said in a news release officers had responded to five more overdoses in the past 11 days where naloxone was required to stop an opioid overdose. Still, two of those people died.

Where to get a naloxone kit

  • Cortland County Office Building, 60 Central Ave., Cortland. Training is available remotely and kits will be mailed to the trainee.
  • CVS Pharmacy, 13 Port Watson St., Cortland
  • Price Chopper pharmacy, 854 Route 13, Cortlandville
  • Walgreens Pharmacy, at 170 Port Watson St., Cortland
  • Rite Aid Pharmacy, 1067 Route 222, Cortlandville
  • Kinney Drugs pharmacies, 14 Clinton Ave. Cortland or 3666 Route 281, Cortlandville
  • Walgreens Pharmacy, 3948 Route 281, Cortlandville
  • Walmart Pharmacy, 819 Bennie Road, Cortlandville

It’s a troubling trend, Lt. Micahel Strageway said. The announcement comes just 10 days after a death from brorphine overdose, a new drug entering the county.

“Brorphine is a potent synthetic opioid with structural resemblance to fentanyl and its analogues,” states an article from The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education from July.

Strangeway said investigators don’t yet know whether that new drug caused the death of the latest two.

“Toxicology takes about two months,” he said.

Meeker said the lab the county uses in Pennsylvania is testing for brorphine.

She also noted that the county has six toxicology reports pending with the lab.

Strangeway said that stamped wax bags, “typically containing heroin,” were found at two of the four scenes.

“The presence of stamped bags in this community is a disturbing sign,” Strangeway said. “Bags of this sort typically originate in large metropolitan areas (such as NYC/ NJ area, Philadelphia and Chicago) where vast quantities of heroin is bagged for individual use and stamped to identify the drug that is being marketed by an organization.”

Some people like to use a specific brand of drug and will seek out that brand, he said.

The brand popularity leads the dealers to seek more profit by mixing it with other synthetic substances like Fentanyl or brorphine.

“Heroin itself is a strong opiate and results in overdose deaths around the country every day,” Strangeway said.

What is making it harder to track the overdoses is that not everyone calls the police or medical personnel when someone is overdosing.

“In a recent interview with a local man, who is dating a heroin user, the man confided that his girlfriend had ‘died’ on five separate occasions of an overdose,” the release said. “The man explained that she had been ‘brought back,’ by him, through the personal use of Narcan. The man told a city police investigator that only one of those five, potentially fatal, overdoses was reported to police or medical personnel. The man explained that this is typical of what he is seeing and hearing among local users.”

Strangeway said there is help for those struggling with addiction.

Meeker said the bail reform laws haven’t really helped because when people were in jail they were able to get treatment they may not get if they’re not held.

“There were a lot of programs offered through the jail,” she said.