Cortland Police Department: 3 OD deaths in 12 days

(Photo from the Cortland Police Department).

The first 12 days of January brought three suspected overdose deaths, the Cortland Police Department confirmed Thursday morning.

Among the many sobering statistics of 2020 was the 200 percent increase in overdose deaths in the city since 2018, leading to the death of 21 individuals, according to city police records. If the pace of overdose deaths in 2021 continues at the rate of three every month, then new year will see another 71 percent increase in deaths and 36 funerals.

While toxicology reports are pending for all three suspected overdose victims, evidence points to a plethora of different drugs killing city residents, including heroin and cocaine, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.

Police and fire records also reveal the toll overdoses, including overdoses where life-saving medications are successfully administered, are taking on the departments.

In 2020, a total of 30 city police officers responded to 24 separate overdose incidents, said Sgt. Chad Hines. During those incidents, officers administered 50 vials of naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, said Hines. Hines maintains the department’s naloxone supply and records. 

Those records show a corresponding increase in officers using naloxone to save overdose victims from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, officers administered 40 vials of the drug during 17 incidents. In 2020, officers administered 50 vials during 24 incidents — that’s 25 percent more vials and 41 percent more incidents.

City firefighters responded to 12 overdose incidents in 2020, said Chief Wayne Friedman.

Overdose deaths exploded in 2020, compared to previous years, according to Cortland County Coroner records. In 2019, there were nine deaths in the County and in 2018 there were seven, said Cortland County Coroner Whitney Meeker shortly before her retirement on Dec. 30.

“In past years it's vacillated,” Meeker said. “It’s been on the rise since 2014.”

The first large jump in deaths occurred between 2014, which saw three deaths in the County, and 2015, when the County logged nine.

Overdose deaths more than doubled in 2020 by the City of Cortland alone.

“We’re wiping out generations of kids,” said Meeker. “They could do so much to make our lives better.”