Will County reports 13 overdose deaths in one week

COMPARISON OF A potentially lethal dose of fentanyl to a U.S. penny. DEA photo.


The Will County coroner has issued a public alert after 13 suspected drug overdose deaths in one week.

The deaths took place between June 6 and June 12.

Will County Coroner Laurie H. Summers indicated that majority of these overdose deaths have been due to cocaine mixed with fentanyl. Summer’s office issued an alert on June 8, urging family members and friends of those with substance abuse disorder to understand that street drugs containing lethal doses of fentanyl are the likely culprit.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported that since the start of the month, multiple opioid overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, have occurred in collar counties surrounding Cook County.

In a statement, the IDPH noted that “Coroner interviews with those knowledgeable about drug use circumstances suggest those who died thought they had purchased cocaine and were social (not regular) users.

“If taking illicit substances, there are precautions that can be utilized to reduce risk for fatal and non-fatal overdose,” the statement continued. “Consider testing the substance for fentanyl using fentanyl test strips. Carry naloxone and do not use substances alone. Also, be aware that more than one dose of naloxone may be required to reverse an overdose, especially when synthetic opioids are involved.”

The Will County Rapid Response Team deploys Naloxone to high-risk communities and helps individuals with a substance use disorder connect to recovery resources. Naloxone, commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan, is a nasal spray that can neutralize the effects of an opioid overdose.

The team works closely with the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community (WCHC) and the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC) to distribute Narcan and provide information and education on substance abuse disorder locally.

“We’re out there. We were in Wilmington all weekend, we were at Canal Days, from Thursday through Sunday we gave out 127 boxes of Narcan and 57 fentanyl test strips,” Connie Dewall from Will County Substance Abuse Initiatives told members of the BAHCC this week.

Earlier this year, Will County allocated $175,000 in federal funds to the team to help provide resources to the community, including Narcan, assistance for individuals seeking substance use disorders treatment and short-term housing while awaiting admission to care.

“We understand this is a troubling time and want people to know there is help,” said Public Health and Safety Chair Rachel Ventura. “The Will County Rapid Response Team is ready to distribute Narcan and fentanyl testing strips to anyone who wants or needs it. The Rapid Response Team is also available to help individuals who are ready for treatment. Narcan can be found in most micropantries and is frequently restocked in hot spots. Time is of the essence to save lives right now.”

While Narcan is often stocked in those micropantries, exposure to excessive heat (above 104 degrees) can potentially affect the potency of the life saving medicine. Narcan should be kept at room temperature.

Experts also note that some people often require two doses of Narcan to neutralize an overdose.

Local prevention leaders urged the public to stay aware of the problem, after the coroner announced that additional deaths were likely to be reported throughout the week.

“We’ve just got to power through and if we can help one person, we’re doing the right thing. Don’t get discouraged,” BAHCC program director Pete Dell’Aquila said. “This is definitely something to keep eyes on.”

Will County Substance Use Initiatives Director Dr. Kathleen Burke, oversees the Rapid Response Team. Dr. Burke can be reached at 708-205-5782 or kathleenburke@willcountyillinois.com.

Not including the most recent deaths, the coroner’s office reports 44 cases of heroin/fentanyl related deaths in 2022. Those include a 28-year-old male from Wilmington in January, a 54-year old male from Braidwood in February, and a 29-year-old male from Elwood in February.

In 2021, there were a total of 111 heroin/fentanyl related deaths in Will County, including two in Wilmington.