Fentanyl-related deaths in Montgomery County spark concern, action

Opioid overdoses involving fentanyl are cutting young lives short in Montgomery County at a rate that has leaders concerned and taking steps to make it stop.

Between 2019 and 2021, Montgomery County fentanyl-related overdose deaths shot up 271%, according to data from Montgomery Co. Forensic Services. Fentanyl was listed as the cause of death 52 times last year alone.

“For the first time in Montgomery County’s history, you’re more likely to die from an accidental overdose of fentanyl than you are to be murdered,” Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said.

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In an interview on Fox News Wednesday, Sheriff Rand Henderson called fentanyl “a weapon of mass destruction.”

Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Montgomery County, according to the Forensic Services department:

  • 2019: 14
  • 2020: 29
  • 2021: 52
  • 2022 year-to-date: 23

The average age of someone who died from fentanyl so far this year in Montgomery County is 35, according to the Forensic Services department.

“The trend is, people think that they’re getting a legitimate pill, they’re buying it illegally obviously … and it’s laced with fentanyl,” Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Judge Wayne Mack said. “If you look at it, it looks identical to an actual prescription medicine.”

He often investigates overdose deaths and talks to family members who lose loved ones.

“It’s usually at somebody’s residence and we’ve seen a huge increase where families had no idea that their loved one was struggling with addiction,” he said.

Mack and Noack are two county leaders working to get the message out that one pill can kill.

In May, county commissioners approved creating a fentanyl task force that will include the District Attorney, County Attorney, County Judge, Constables, and Sheriff. The task force will use money from opioid lawsuit settlements to attempt to combat fentanyl issues in the county.

The county is expecting to receive $3.1 million from a recent settlement soon, Noack said.

In recent weeks, Montgomery County law enforcement began using new technology to help track down and keep up with drug dealers, he said.

“It’s not just about busting you for selling it, it’s where did you get it,” Noack said. “It’s going to make it much easier for law enforcement to detect and for our prosecutors to prosecute.”

Earlier this year, a grant helped county law enforcement gain more access to Narcan, the FDA-approved nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives.

According to data from Montgomery County Hospital District, first responders have administered the medication more than 1,200 times since 2019.

Noack said the task force has also discussed the possibility of providing Narcan directly to parents and is working on an educational curriculum to emphasize that one pill can kill in county schools.

The tools all have the same target.

“It’s going to be hard to eradicate but that’s our goal,” Noack said.

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