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A total of 714 people have lost their lives in Dane County by suicide or drug overdose since 2016 according to new figures from the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The figures are from January 2016 through August of this year, with the vast majority of the overdoses (more than 84%) occurring as a result of opiates. That compares to 133 people who have passed away as a result of a traffic crash in Dane County since 2016.

“Suicides and overdoses are far and away the leading causes of unnecessary death in this county, they’re affecting all ages, community, races, and genders and it is imperative this community come together and put our energy and resources into solutions,” County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Over 700 people have died unnecessarily in just a few years. Hundreds of others are having close calls and remain with us thanks to the quick thinking and use of Narcan and important treatment efforts.”

Parisi released this data Thursday Nov. 21 during a training at Dane County Human Services' South Madison Office, 2306 S. Park St., where dozens of county employees who work in the community are being provided Narcan and training on how to give it to someone experiencing an overdose emergency.

During the past couple of weeks alone, more than 150 employees of Dane County Human Services have been provided with doses of Narcan and trained to administer the opiate counter-acting treatment.

“Our Human Services workers are on the front lines every day, working directly with families in homes and neighborhoods across the community,” Human Services Director Shawn Tessman said.

A total of 441 people have died from overdoses since 2016, but 372 of those deaths involved opiates. A total of 273 others took their own lives via suicide.

Meanwhile, new numbers from Dane County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) show ambulances across the county have responded to 526 overdose calls this year alone. Similar to the fatalities, the vast majority involve opiate usage in which Narcan is saved in resuscitative efforts.

In order to confront these trends, the county's budget for 2020 adds over $2.2 million in new mental health and addiction resources for schools and community centers.

The budget includes funding to establish the new C.J. Tubbs Fund for Hope, Healing, and Recovery—named after the son of Dane County Emergency Management Director Charles Tubbs who passed away this summer as a result of an accidental overdose.

In partnership with the Safe Communities Coalition, Dane County is also creating a new “End Deaths by Despair” Coalition, to bring a dedicated team together to focus on the best strategies to raise awareness and reduce the prevalence of suicide.

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