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Drug-related hospital stays down in La Crosse, but they’re seeing older patients

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The use of NARCAN to stop drug overdoses has been going up in La Crosse County in the past decade, according to a new survey by the county health department.

Although a drop in use of the antidote by Tri-State Ambulance and Gundersen Health System in La Crosse was reported in 2017, the number of patients and doses given is about five times higher than seen in 2007.

Al Bliss from the health department says the number of people being trained to administer NARCAN has grown rapidly as well.

“It took a couple years for La Crosse to catch on but there’s been additional training that’s provided and now almost all local law enforcement is on board with carrying NARCAN,” Bliss said. “It doesn’t mean that they’ve used it. But they’re also administering it.”

As one might expect, Bliss says the jump in NARCAN use corresponds to a sharp increase in heroin and opioid poisonings in the area. Drug abuse is going up among people over 24.

The number of drug overdose deaths in the county has also been going up, from 11 in 2013 to 29 last year.

Doctors have seen a major increase in the number of deaths involving fentanyl, compared to meth or heroin.

Bliss reports a decline in people being hospitalized for drug problems at Gundersen in 2017. That followed a trend where the number of people being treated for drug abuse doubled in just three years.

Bills said there was close to 2,000 drug-related hospitalizations in 2017 in La Crosse County and the outside service area.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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