Some 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 Dane County Executive’s Office reports that the figures are from January of 2016 up through August of this year, with the vast majority of the overdoses (over 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.”

County Executive Parisi released this data last week during a training at Dane County Human Services’ South Madison Office, 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. In the past couple of weeks alone, over 150 employees of Dane County Human Services have been given doses of Narcan and trained on administering this opiate counter-acting treatment.

Some 441 people have died from overdoses since 2016, and 372 of those deaths involved opiates, while 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.

In order to confront these trends, the County Executive’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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