DSP, Beebe issue urgent alert after overdose spike

DSP, Beebe issue urgent alert after overdose spike
DSP, Beebe issue urgent alert after overdose spike

Delaware State Police and Beebe Healthcare have issued an urgent alert after an unprecedented number of drug overdoses have been reported in Sussex County over the past week.

State police first issued the community alert April 30. They said at least one person has died.

There have been about 50 suspected overdoses in the county, according to Dr. Paul Sierzenski, Beebe’s chief physician executive. Beebe has treated 30 of those patients over a six-day period.

“We are begging our community to watch out for each other and understand the significance of this situation,” Sierzenski said.

Sierzenski joined Beebe CEO and President Dr. David Tam, other Beebe doctors and staff, and state health officials at a press conference May 1.

Dr. Paul Cowan, a Beebe emergency medicine specialist, said the spike in overdose cases is disturbing. He said they might normally see five cases in a six-day period.

“These patients are unique in that they are more critically ill than most patients. Many are requiring long-term care in our intensive care unit,” Cowan said.

Sierzenski said 11 patients have required mechanical ventilation and intubation with ICU stays.

The exact substance or combination of substances that people are using is unknown. State police said the drugs have been packaged in small, white wax paper bags typically associated with heroin.

Joanna Champney, director of the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said the Poison Control Center recently issued a bulletin noting synthetic opioid derivatives in eastern Delaware that carry similar symptoms.

“There are no specific patterns in regard to age, sex, race when it comes to this spike. The cases are spread widely throughout the county,” Champney said.

Champney said his agency has delivered 1,300 Narcan kits to Beebe. She said another 200 doses were delivered directly to the hospital’s emergency department.

State police said some cases have been resistant to Naloxone and required repeat doses to restore normal breathing.

“We continue to encourage the administration of Narcan,” said Dr. Robert Rosenbaum, Delaware EMS medical director. “If a patient doesn’t respond to one dose, wait two minutes, give an additional dose and call 911.”

Champney said DSAMH’s Overdose Response Center is doing additional street outreach, Narcan distribution and training events.

Tam said Beebe’s response to this fast-moving crisis was helped by lessons learned from COVID.

“We have to retain a strong health system so that when something comes out of the blue, we can pivot in multiple ways, because you never know when the next crisis comes,” Tam said.

The entire Beebe news conference can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwfOUrmYf8I.

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