By: Veronica Acosta
TUCSON, Ariz. — Officials with the Pima County Health Departmentsay 2020 holds the record for the most overdose deaths, since tracking began.
In 2019, there were 337 overdose deaths in Pima County, according to an alert issued on November 4 of this year.
The report went on to say in the first nine months of 2020, there were a recorded 334 overdose deaths.
Mark Person, the program manager for the Community Mental Health and Addiction Unit within the Pima County Health Department told KGUN9 that as of the first week of December the number of overdose deaths in 2020 have grown.
“I can tell you today through our surveillance that we are already over 400 overdose deaths here in Pima County,” said Person.
Person told KGUN9 largest spike in overdose deaths in 2020 happened between June and August.
“The largest peak in the history of Pima County tracking this was the month of July when we had over 60 overdose deaths. That number in a given month is unheard of,” he said.
The data obtained by the Community Mental Health and Addiction Unit also showed Black and American Indian communities in Pima County have been “disproportionally impacted by fatality rates”, according to the alert.
“Those two groups, historically and currently are hit disproportionally with poor socioeconomic factors,” he said.
Person identified socioeconomic stressors as what could be leading to the increase in overdose deaths.
“Frequently that could involve trauma or poverty, loss of income, unemployment, evictions,” he said.
The alert issued by the county also stated the 20–29 age group saw a 19% overdose death increase in 2020 compared to the end of 2019.
“The most significant factor for the 20 and ups group is the presence of fentanyl,” said Person.
He added the presence of both fentanyl and methamphetamines play the main role in overdose deaths in Pima County.
Christopher Thomas, who works with Sonoran Prevention Works, told KGUN9 the organization is working hard to help those most in need.
Thomas said it’s why the organization has concentrated resources on the 85705, 85712, and 85719 zip codes.
“We delegated our staff and have given them designated days that they go out and do outreach. What that involves is them going out and distributing supplies, food, wound care supplies and the overdose reversal medication, naloxone,” said Thomas.
Person told KGUN9 he believes Pima County could end the 2020 year with anywhere between 425–450 overdose deaths.
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