Opioid deaths up so far this year in northern Shenandoah Valley

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Nine people have died so far this year from opioid overdoses in areas covered by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, according to its director Lauren Cummings.

The fatalities — up by two from this time in 2018 — were in Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Warren and Clarke.

"When we see an increase like this, as far as several overdoses in a short period of time, that often indicates to the coalition and also law enforcement that the heroin that's being sold and used is very potent and more likely to be laced with fentanyl," said Cummings.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition is comprised of law enforcement, health care and treatment organizations. There was a 45 percent decrease in the number of deaths in the six localities the coalition covers overall in 2018 compared to 2017, according to Cummings.

NSVSAC is hosting a NARCAN training session on Tuesday.

Cummings said it is important for people who have friends or family battling substance abuse to be prepared for a possible emergency.

"One of the biggest keys is making sure that if someone is isolated — if they've been in the bathroom for a long time, go and check on that person because there's always a possibility that they've overdosed and they're not able to reach out for help at that time," she said.

The NARCAN training seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m on the Our Health Campus in the Eagles Board Room in Winchester. Those interested in signing up can call Bethany Searfoss at 540-536-5004 or email her at bsearfos@valleyhealthlink.com.