Oneida County officials say there have been 21 heroin overdoses over the past 10 days that resulted in five fatalities, primarily in the cities of Utica and Rome.

Seven of the overdoses took place in a 24-hour period.

County Executive Anthony Picente says the County's Overdose Response Team received a Spike Alert Notification and the County is issuing an Overdose Alert to notify the public that there could be a public safety or health issue.

Officials say while the spike could be due to a number of causes, such spikes are often related to tainted or potent heroin, including heroin laced with fentanyl.

"We are still awaiting official reports to confirm if it's deadly fentanyl or something else, but investigators are moving ahead to try to find the source while encouraging the surviving victims to get treatment" said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol, City of Utica Chief of Police Mark Williams, and City of Rome Chief of Police Kevin Beach in a joint statement regarding the investigation.

The Oneida County Overdose Response Team is calling on heroin users, their family members, friends and the public in general to help save lives by reaching out for help and paying attention to the behaviors of individuals around them and signs of overdose:

  • Person is not responsive
  • Fingertips or lips turn blue or gray
  • Breathing is slow, shallow or has stopped
  •  Person is gurgling or making snoring noises

Always call 911 in a life-threatening situation and do not leave the victim alone. As a reminder, the Good Samaritan Law states that anyone who in good faith seeks care for themselves or someone experiencing a life-threatening emergency will not be charged or prosecuted for a drug- or alcohol-related offense including possession of drug paraphernalia, with some exceptions.