Madison County overdose deaths shattering 30-day records, lives

The coroner said in the last month, there were 24 overdoses. There are normally about 75 overdose deaths in an entire year in the county.

Posted: Jun 15, 2020 6:20 PM
Updated: Jun 16, 2020 8:18 AM

Huntsville police and the Madison County Coroner told WAAY 31 they're seeing a spike in overdose deaths.

Mark McMurray, Huntsville Police Chief, and Lieutenant Tony McElyea with the department said their drug agents have seized more than 20,000 hits of heroin and Fentanyl off the streets in Huntsville since January. However, the rate people are dying from these drugs in Huntsville is at an all-time high.

Madison County Coroner Tyler Berryhill said 24 people died in Madison County from suspected drug overdoses in the last month.

"We typically see around 73 to 75 drug-related deaths every year. In the last 30-day period, we've already met 1/3 of our annual total," he said.

Authorities believe the drug overdoses are due to people taking Fentanyl.

"You can almost tell when a drug hits the street, because everyone goes home and starts snorting, ingesting or injecting it and then HEMSI all of a sudden gets 14 overdose calls," McMurray said.

"Fentanyl is a strong pain reliever that they use for stage 4 cancer patients," McElyea added.

Berryhill explained the victims range in ages from 20 to 45 years old.

"No age group, no demographic is immune to the consequences of these drugs and the havoc they are wreaking on our community," Berryhill said.

McElyea explained people who overdosed but were brought back with Narcan told his drug agents they bought and knowingly took Fentanyl.

"It's the new trend. Drugs go in trends, and right now, it's what the users are wanting because they want that ultimate high," he explained.

Huntsville Police Chief McMurray wants dealers to hear this message.

"If you want to sell these drugs that kill the citizens of Huntsville, we are going to prosecute you. We are going to locate you and prosecute you and hold you accountable for these deaths," he said.

The coroner said it can take three to four months to get the toxicology back to learn exactly what killed someone. In the meantime, the Overdose Response Committee, which is made up of the Huntsville Police Department, Madison County Sheriff's Office, Madison Police, Decatur Police, HEMSI and Huntsville Hospital, are partnering to share information to hopefully stop distributors from selling these deadly drugs before more people get hurt or die.

Huntsville police told us they are working with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District to prosecute about 20 people selling these deadly drugs. There is a minimum mandatory federal sentence if convicted of 20 years.

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