ITHACA, N.Y. — In 2017, Tompkins County will likely see the most drug-related deaths in a decade, increasing more than 10 times the number of people who died from drug use in 2007.

As of Oct. 3, 16 people died of drug-related causes in Tompkins County and four cases are still pending a cause of death. Pending cases may still be waiting for toxicology results or are being investigated further, according to the Tompkins County Health Department,

In 2016, 21 people died of drug-related causes. Two people died of drug-related causes in 2007.

The health department stated in a written response that due to how deaths are investigated and reported, fatal drug drug overdoses specifically involving opioids or heroin are not able to be accurately by reported.

The statement says, “Regarding toxicology, the substances tested for, the circumstances under which the tests are performed, and how information is reported on death certificates may also vary. Drug overdose deaths that lack information about the specific drugs may have involved opioids. Even after a death is ruled as caused by a drug overdose, information on the specific drug might not be subsequently added to the certificate. Therefore, fatal drug overdoes involving Opioids may be underestimated from lack of drug specificity.”

Related — This is America on drugs: A visual guide

In 2015, opioid related deaths killed more people in the United States than traffic accidents and homicides combined.

In an effort to reduce opioid related deaths locally and provide people with forward-thinking resources for treatment, the Ithaca Plan was launched in February 2016.

The plan called for a variety of initiatives including a detox center, a supervised injection facility, a methadone clinic, and better access to city services, such as housing and medical access.

The Ithaca Plan archives 

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.