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Officials Trying to Explain Surge in Heroin Deaths

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa — Officials in Johnson County want to know why heroin deaths are on the rise. Earlier this month a group of federal, state and local officials gathered to discuss an increase in heroin-related deaths, with 10 already this year in the county. The group is now working to push out information to the public in an attempt to ease the sudden surge of heroin activity.

The previous high for heroin-related deaths came in 2012, when nine people died during the entire year.

Officials at the University of Iowa have also noted an increase in cases at the emergency department.

“Definitely as a chief drug of abuse, it’s ramping up even in the younger population,” said Dr. Michael Miller, clinical medical director of the emergency department at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Miller said heroin overdoses are often fatal if a person doesn’t receive immediate medical attention.

“If you have a side effect or symptoms from an overdose of heroin, you’re going to stop breathing and die without help,” he said.

Officials with MECCA Services, a substance abuse treatment center in Iowa City, said despite the increase in deaths, they’re not seeing an increase in people seeking treatment for the drug.

“The increase of heroin and the number of deaths being reported are shocking,” Ron Berg, CEO of MECCA Services said. “But it doesn’t show up in terms of the volume of clients coming through right now.”

Berg said more public awareness could increase people seeking treatment for heroin abuse.

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