Fentanyl overdoses spike in Cobb, public health officials warn

Opioid overdose deaths hit new high in 2021.

Emergency room visits due to fentanyl overdoses have increased in the last few months in Cobb County.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health recently began tracking fentanyl-related overdoses so that any uptick in overdoses can be reported to first responders and healthcare providers, department spokesperson Valerie Crow said in a statement.

“Particularly concerning is that it appears that street-bought drugs, such as cocaine, were mixed with fentanyl,” she said.

Opioid overdose deaths reached an all-time high in the county, with 123 deaths in 2021, a 75% increase since pre-pandemic levels in 2019 which had 70 deaths, according to public health data.

Cobb’s recent measures to address the opioid epidemic include the approval of a $3.5 million lawsuit settlement with Rite Aid, one of the pharmaceutical chains targeted in ongoing suits across the U.S. Those funds are expected to be directed toward opioid-related expenses and abatement measures.

Missy Owen, founder of the Davis Direction Foundation, a substance abuse recovery organization in Marietta, spoke to the Board of Commissioners when the settlement was approved in July, citing fentanyl as a top concern.

“In the past three months alone, 30 people went to the ER at Cobb Hospital for fentanyl poisoning,” she said. “Fifteen of those 30 believed they were taking something other than fentanyl.”

Cobb has remained one of the top counties in Georgia for opioid overdose deaths, which spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

This year, the county received federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act — $25.7 million is designated for community health, the top spending priority in the investment plan. Under the community health umbrella, the county plans to allot $12 million for mental health, $7.5 million for public health disparities and $3.6 million for substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation initiatives.

Resources are available from Cobb and Douglas Public Health, including information on preventing and treating opioid overdose and how to seek treatment for substance abuse.