Madison police officer likely saves woman’s life during overdose, renewing focus on growing problem

It’s no secret that opioids are a growing problem, but figuring out just how bad they’ve been has been its own challenge

MADISON, Wis. —  A Madison police officer likely saved a woman’s life Monday night while she was overdosing on drugs.

The Madison Police Department said the officer gave her Narcan after she overdosedaround 11:45 p.m in the 500 block of Algoma Street on the city’s east side.

It’s no secret that opioids are a growing problem, but figuring out just how bad they’ve been has been its own challenge.

Twice this year, Public Health Madison & Dane County has warned of a spike in overdose deaths. The most recent one was a few weeks ago when there were seven overdoses in 24 hours.

That’s data we have, but we’re still waiting on bigger picture data.

The latest numbers of overdoses and deaths in Dane County and Wisconsin come from 2020 — almost two years ago. That year, more than 130 people died from overdoses in Dane County.

On Tuesday, PHMDC and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said that’s the most recent info they have. Both agencies said they do have preliminary 2021 data, but neither could release it yet.

Still, people who try to prevent overdoses locally know the truth, hard numbers or not.

“The key now, and really over the last couple of years, has been the increase in synthetic opioids such as fentanyl,” said Che Stedman, the Madison Fire Department’s assistant chief of medical affairs. “There (are) so many users out there that don’t know or don’t understand what they’re getting anymore that really is causing what we consider to be a pretty big uptick in these overdoses.”

Fentanyl is proving to be the deadliest problem. Even long-time drug users get fooled by fentanyl being laced in, experts said, and just a small amount can kill you.

Some fear a basic Narcan dose won’t be enough to save some people.

RELATED: Wisconsin officials lay out plan for use of opioid settlement funds

There is some good news: the state is set to get $400 million in opioid settlement money, which will help pay for rehabilitation, fentanyl test strips, Narcan and educational campaigns.