Something deadly is going around Cayuga County, causing more drug overdoses and deaths than the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and county coroner have seen in a while.
Coroner Adam Duckett said he saw four overdose deaths in the past seven to 10 days, all unrelated and spread across the county from Aurora, to Cato, to Auburn. It concerned him so much, he said, that he posted on his former campaign Facebook page to warn people.
"I am writing this post today because my investigators and myself have seen a rise in overdoses in our County this week and it has made me very uneasy," he wrote on Oct. 9. "I want to reach as many people as possible to warn them to BE CAREFUL. Something very lethal is being passed around right now and until we know what it is, PLEASE take this time to get HELP."
Despite the page's inactivity since January 2016, Duckett had more than 460 shares on the post.
Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould said the calls for drug overdose deaths were very quiet for months. In the past month, however, the problem has sprung up again and with a vengeance. Gould said the sheriff's office is working closely with the Auburn Police Department and New York State Police.
The four deaths were people in their 20s and 30s, he added, at a Cayuga County Legislature Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday night.
"We certainly want everybody, family members and everybody, to be alert that we don't know what is causing this sudden increase in possible drug overdose deaths in the last three weeks, but we're certainly working on it," Gould said. "It's very concerning. People have to notice if someone is having a problem with drugs, and it doesn't have to be heroin, if people are having a problem with drugs, family members, friends, they have to take the initiative to take care of these people to get them some place that's responsible that can help them."
What's frustrating for both Duckett and Gould is toxicology reports usually take between four and six weeks to come back. Until they do, the substance or substances killing people is unknown. District Attorney Jon Budelmann said at the committee meeting Wednesday night that one of the overdoses was not due to heroin, though he did not say what the lethal substance may have been.
Duckett said fentanyl, an opiod that may be mixed with heroin or sold as heroin, is still the No. 1 killer. The deaths, he added, are scaring drug users, so he's seen an increase in those turning to cocaine. While cocaine isn't good either, Duckett said it tends not to be as lethal as heroin.
"We really have to start getting this more attention again," he added. "We have to stay focused on working together."
Duckett and Gould encouraged those who may be struggling with drug addiction or those with loved ones struggling to reach out to Confidential Help for Alcohol and Drugs (CHAD) in Auburn or another drug treatment program.
In the meantime, the Cayuga County Legislature's Government Operations Committee listened to three law firms representing municipalities in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that sell opiods Wednesday night. After learning more about the case and the strategies of the various firms in executive session, the committee's majority decided to move forward with interest in the lawsuit, recommending that the Legislature consider the New York City law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
Legislators plan to discuss potentially joining the lawsuit at the Ways and Means Committee meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17 in the Sixth Floor Chambers of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn.