Davidson County officials dealing with high number of overdoses

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DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- In just one month, 13 people overdosed and had to go to hospitals across Davidson County.

It's one of the highest numbers in the state, but Davidson County Health Department officials say they are working on it.

So far in 2019, 146 people have been brought to either Thomasville Medical Center or Lexington Memorial Hospital for overdoses.

That's more than the 128 people who showed up to those two hospitals in 2018.

County officials say they're amping up their efforts to fight back in a different way.

Each of Eric Burgiss' baseballs reminds him of his 29 years of substance abuse.

"There are 108 stitches on a baseball," Burgiss said.

Those stitches help him remember his point of no return.

"My dope was contaminated with fentanyl and I used it unknowingly and I overdosed," Burgiss said. "They had to hit me with Narcan twice to get me revived."

His growing collection is prompting him to try and change the increased opioid use he's been seeing in Davidson County.

"I'm on my 5th baseball and 500 days clean," Burgiss said.

Burgiss and his organization, The 108 Challenge, is working with the county health department to help educate people and direct them to resources they may need to get clean.

"It goes a long way for them to connect with someone who's been there, done that, walked their path, experienced and overdose, been hit with Narcan," Burgiss said.

He feels education and prevention efforts are crucial but are only pieces of the puzzle.

"We look for persons who are in recovery, who know a little bit more about the population and let them help us figure out the best way," Janna Walker said.

Walker is the Public Health Strategist for the Davidson County Health Department and tells FOX8 the opioid crisis is a top priority.

"In October, we hit number 10 out of 100 [counties] for the highest emergency department opioid visits," Walker said.

She says the emergency room overdose visits are just a snapshot on how the county is trying to fight back.

"We don't know exactly how bad [this crisis] is, but we know it was worth our time and energy to hire a substance abuse coordinator who can dedicate the time to look at programs and look for funding," Walker said.

But she believes it's going to take time, patience and a community effort.

"There's no full-proof solution, Walker said. "Sometimes we may think we've got a really good idea, and three or four months down the road, we see it's not working,. So we've got to back up, punt and try again."

The substance abuse coordinator was hired in August.

FOX8 is told it's too early to tell if the position is helping with the problem just yet.

The new November numbers for overdose emergency room visits should be coming out in the next few days.

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