By LEAH DEARBORN
PEABODY — City departments are working together to combat an uptick in opioid overdoses.
There were 91 nonfatal drug overdoses and 10 fatal overdoses in 2015, leading to a combined increase of nearly 15 percent for overdoses, said Police Chief Thomas M. Griffin at a Municipal Safety Committee meeting in January.
Across Essex County, there were 236 unintentional opioid-related deaths during the same year, according to data from the state Department of Health.
The city overdose statistics for 2016 have yet to be released, but Griffin said he doesn’t expect to see dramatic changes.
Deputy Fire Chief Richard Nelson said that while the opioid epidemic is a serious problem in the area, he does not believe Peabody is suffering from an unusually high number of overdoses.
“We’re not exempt,” he said about drug use in the city.
Nelson said the department does have an outreach team that goes out on a weekly basis to speak with families about topics such as clinical services.
“We call it doorknocking,” said Nelson. “We offer assistance to basically whoever wants services.”
Griffin said that every overdose in the city is recorded, as well as the overdoses of Peabody residents that occur in other communities when the information is available.
Ha also said a crucial component in the fight against overdoses has been the decision to equip police cruisers with Narcan, a nasal spray used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioids.
“I felt it was an important piece to put in the hands of my officers … I’d rather have my guys have the ability to do that instead of having to tell a parent they weren’t able to save that child,” said Griffin.
He said the department also uses resources such as citywide organization Healthy Peabody Collaborative and Project COPE, a nonprofit substance abuse service.
Following an overdose, the Fire Department sends staff to speak with family members of the victim.
“I think the relationship between a police officer and someone who is addicted is a little bit tense,” said Griffin.
State Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody) has previously said he has plans to introduce legislation that will create a statewide registry of overdose responses.
Leah Dearborn can be reached at email@example.com.