Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz says a total of 122 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017. A roughly 21% increase from 2016's total of 96. Hintz says the number could rise as he waits for more toxicology tests.
Winnebago County and the City of Rockford announce they intend to pursue legal action against companies they believe helped create and grow the current epidemic. The Winnebago County Board and Rockford City Council are expected to formally approve the action at their next meetings.
"Our police and fire departments, our hospitals and health care providers are diverting precious resources that they have to respond to this epidemic," says Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.
"Just this past weekend we had a couple overdose in a vehicle,crashed into a tree," says Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten. "Then another one overdosed in a drive through lane and ran into cars."
Bergsten says his department responded to a total of 310 overdoses in 2017. An epidemic he says he's seen grow in the last decade. Which is why he says he's excited to learn of the city and county's lawsuit, and what it could potentially signal for the city if it's successful.
"With a continuing increase in call volume and calls for service we go on. The biggest overall thing is that it's improving the public health, that we don't have these overdoses."
Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says area law enforcement has been collaborating to figure out a solution to the epidemic, and is relieved to see more teamwork.
"We need to hold the whole chain accountable to start getting results," says Caruana. "I'm happy to see we're coming together more and more and more as a team. Uniting as a team, because that's how you get things done. Good people working together can accomplish anything."