Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker is urging the community to be aware of the uptick of deaths from suspected overdoses in Sussex County and also is warning people in active substance use in Sussex County and the state of the possibility that heroin could be laced with fatal amounts of fentanyl.

"Because of the rapid increase in deaths in Sussex County, we are issuing this warning now before we have the results of the toxicology screens on which substances were involved," said Walker, a board-certified family physician. "These substances clearly are dangerous, especially those being used in Sussex County. If you are in active use, we urge you to seek treatment immediately. If you continue to use substances, have the overdose-reversing medication naloxone with you because the risk for death is increased. Reducing harm and saving lives are our first priorities."

As of July 18, the Division of Forensic Science has reported that seven of the 12 deaths from suspected overdoses in Delaware during July have occurred in Sussex County; the rest occurred in New Castle County. Since the start of the year, Sussex County has accounted for about 22 percent of all deaths from suspected overdoses.

In 2017, Sussex County accounted for 64 of the 345 overdose deaths in the state, or about 18.5 percent of the total. In July 2017, four of the 21 deaths from suspected overdoses that month occurred in Sussex County; the rest happened in New Castle County.