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'Yellow alert' opioid advisory lifted in Jackson County

Jackson County Public Health lifted an advisory Thursday intended to warn the public about an increase in opioid overdoses.

The advisory, a “yellow alert,” was issued Jan. 11 due to the rise in overdoses.

“It allows us to give the heads-up to the community that something is happening and to take precaution,” said Tanya Phillips, county health promotion manager.

The surveillance system used to track overdoses contains data from participating public safety agencies, such as Medford police and Mercy Flights, meaning some incidents may have gone unreported.

From Dec. 27 through Jan. 9, Medford police and Mercy Flights responded to six overdoses, three per week. One of those resulted in a death Jan. 9, public health officials said.

Since Jan. 9, police have responded to one accidental opioid overdose, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau. The agency responded to four other overdoses during the same time period, with three not related to opiates and the fourth, which resulted in a death, still under investigation.

“Typically, when we’re talking about yellow alerts, we’re not talking about pills. We’re talking about heroin,” said Budreau. “We’ve seen these spikes before, so it’s not completely unusual.”

What caused the latest jump in cases isn’t clear. Police had speculated it could be from a more potent batch, though it’s not confirmed. Other factors could be in play, Budreau added, including increased rates of depression during the winter months.

Public health officials issued a “red alert” in 2020 when Medford police responded to seven overdoses in one week.

A list of addiction treatment resources and information is available online at staysafeoregon.com/find-help/treatment-and-recovery. Jackson County’s syringe exchange program also provides referrals for treatment services. People who utilize the program can also receive free naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote. More information is available at jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/Public-Health-Syringe-Exchange.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

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