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Medical examiner: 6 probable OD deaths in just 5 1/2 hours in Milwaukee County

Data pix.

MILWAUKEE -- There has been another spike in the number of probable drug overdose deaths -- primarily in the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office reported Tuesday, Feb. 25 six probable overdose deaths that occurred in a span of five-and-a-half hours on Monday. The victims ranged in age from 36 to 64.

Sheree Thompson

"It can happen to anyone," said Sheree Thompson.

Thompson,  three years sober, helps others detox from drugs at First Step Community Recovery.

"I'm a survivor and I want to keep going," Thompson said.

It is the same place Thompson was able to find help with her addiction to cocaine.

"I put myself in some very dangerous, harmful situations. But I chose to do something different; something much more productive and positive," Thompson said.

Sara Schreiber

But overdoses in the city and county are still on the rise, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

"The most common combination we're seeing that's growing over the last few years is fentanyl and cocaine," said Sara Schreiber, forensic technical director at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

Officials said Tuesday in the last week, there were 21 probable overdose deaths, and 2019 was the deadliest on record -- with 415 deaths. The previous record was 401 in 2017. With approximately 10 more probable overdose deaths pending Tuesday, officials said 2020 is on track to be even worse.

"This little hurry that we have in the early part of 2020 putting us, as a projected total, of out over 500 drug-related deaths for this year," Schreiber said.

Those working on the front lines noted several reasons for the rise.

"We're now recognizing the mental health component, or perhaps we have, but didn't pay too much attention to it, and then, these dealers are getting craftier," said Neville Duncan, medical director at First Step.

Thompson said she could have been a number.

"You feeling like you want to give up on life," Thompson said.

But she found a way through what felt impossible.

"You can change," Thompson said. "We can't save everyone. Only thing we can do is help the ones who choose to come in."

The medical examiner was working to determine whether there were any common threads in these most recent deaths but said that would take several weeks to determine.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know needs help with an opioid addiction, CLICK HERE to access the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Dose of Reality campaign.

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