406 people in Monroe County died from drug overdoses in 2022

News10NBC Investigates: Drug overdoses

News10NBC Investigates: Drug overdoses

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Thirty people in Monroe County are dying every month from drug overdoses, and it’s not all heroin and fentanyl. The number of deadly cocaine overdoses is surging.   

On Thursday, the Monroe County Health Department released its annual report on overdose deaths.  It shows a total of 406 people died in 2022. Of those people, 253 had both opioids and cocaine in their systems, 93 had just opioids, and 60 had just cocaine. 

The number of opioid-related deaths is up 14% compared to 2021, and the number of cocaine overdoses is up 34%. Of those who are dying, 76% are men, 24% are women, and Black individuals are two-and-a-half times more likely than white individuals to die from cocaine and/or opioid-related overdose according to data from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office.

Randy Cimino has worked with people struggling with addiction for most of his adult life as the President of Gates to Recovery. When News10NBC reached out on Thursday for an interview about the 2022 data he agreed to meet outside of Rochester General Hospital.  He was there because three days ago, his twin brother overdosed.

“Fentanyl — it’s unbelievable how close it’s getting. I see a death every freaking other day, it’s getting the point where it’s just become part of my life or it’s, ‘Oh well, there goes another one,'” he says. “t’s horrible.”

At the moment, all Randy can do is sit by his brother’s side.

“I’ve been waiting for this call, that’s how bad this is,” he says. “I can’t convince him. I’m having a hard time.”

It’s a helpless feeling that hundreds of families in Monroe County experienced in 2022. 

“Addiction is a chronic illness, and chronic illnesses last, generally speaking, for one’s lifetime. So, that’s what we’re seeing,” says Dr. Michael Mendoza, the Monroe County Health Commissioner. 

While the opioid crisis has been prevalent for many years in Monroe County, the resurgence of cocaine overdoses is equally as troubling.

“Those who remember the 80s and the crack cocaine epidemic, that was a very different cocaine,” says Dr. Mendoz. “The cocaine that we’re seeing on the streets now is much more potent, much more pure and leading to overdoses.”

Aside from investing more money into treatment programs, what else can be done?

“We know that 75% of overdoses happen in people’s homes. So all the Narcan we put out into the streets doesn’t do enough. It doesn’t make it into peoples homes. So, I think we have to focus a little more heavily on those who are effected directly and very closely,” Dr. Mendoza says. “When we have an overdose, our team goes out to that individual’s home, at least half of the time, they say, ‘No thank you’ and so we go back and keep trying.”

Cimino has some other ideas.

“I was an addict for a very long time. Mental health was my way out,” he explains.

And that’s why Gates to Recovery is in the process of partnering with Villa of Hope to offer a different type of treatment for those battling addiction.

“I’m putting something together that will help, and I hope I do it in time to save my brother. That’s what this is all about man, saving people you love man,” Cimino says. “I love just about everybody. But my brother, he’s my twin, and this is a real hard thing for me to deal with right now.”

You can see the complete report here: