Tracking Opioid Deaths by ZIP Code
The crisis is widespread buts hits hardest in 53206 and 53215 ZIP codes.
The analysis used a spreadsheet of every Milwaukee County drug-related fatality from January-November 2017. The Medical Examiner’s document contained detailed information on the dead including home addresses and which drugs killed them. It also provided details on both where the person initially overdosed, and where they died.
All but 10 of the 42 Milwaukee County ZIP codes we analyzed from January-November reported drug-related deaths. As Dr. Brooke Lerner of the Milwaukee County Overdose Prevention Effort (COPE) tells Urban Milwaukee, “No community can ignore this, it’s touching everybody.” She also warned against assumptions that the victims are coming from outside the city.
Even when excluding those deaths which occurred at a hospital (which are not necessarily residents of that ZIP code), 53215 was the hardest hit. Most of the L-shaped ZIP code is between 6th and 43rd streets and between Morgan and Beecher, but a chunk of it runs between Beecher and the Menomonee Valley west of 27th St. It recorded 50 deaths, with an unusually high portion — 25 deaths or half — happening in hospitals. Still more people initially overdosed in that zip code than any other. Deaths spread across the area, with pockets in the Lincoln Village neighborhood between S. 18th and S. 10th streets between Lincoln and Arther avenues.
The second-hardest hit ZIP code, 53206, is located between North and Capitol and between 7th and 27th. This is an area that has long led the misery index for the city, with high poverty, crime and other problems. A tight cluster of fentanyl and heroin deaths appeared in the Park West area on the western edge of 53206, an area where half the population lives below the poverty line. The total of 19 overdose deaths in 53206 is much lower than in 53215, but the population for 53206 — of 28,210 — is just one-third of the population — 62,248 — in 53215, so the north side ZIP code is actually harder hit on per capita basis.
Fentanyl and cocaine ravaged the 53206 area whereas River West and the East Side had a mix of substances, with a prevalence of heroin. In the black market, fenanyl is often cut with heroin, trading safety for potency. “The mixing of fentanyl”, says Dr. Lerner, “is, I think, related to the increase we’re seeing in the number of deaths.”
In past years analyzed by COPE and our analysis of 2017, the vast majority of overdose victims died with a combination of drugs in their systems. Dr. Lerner noted the percent of fentanyl deaths had once ranged around 11-13 percent of deaths, but “that goes to 33 percent in 2016 and once the finial 2017 is done, it’ll be even higher.”
To the west of 53215 is West Allis (53214), and the 53219 area zip code. Both had tight clusters of overdoses, particularly between s 66th street and S. 55th street where west Beloit Rd. crosses Burnham St.
Not far from 53206, Riverwest had 12 deaths, but they occurred over a smaller area. A cluster of four deaths, all heroin, also congregated around the Shorewood area. More victims who overdosed in Riverwest and the East Side, however, made it to a hospital before dying.
Cudahy had its own isolated overdose cluster of at least five deaths. Although not as many as some of the other high population zip codes, all occurred within a tightly-packed residential area not too far from Cudahy’s only high school. Another pocket in the 53217 zip code of South Milwaukee saw seven deaths near 18th and Monroe Ave.
Dr. Lerner and COPE looked at similar clusters in years past, finding an average range of 0-13 deaths in a given area. Some outliers existed, with pockets of overdose spikes like those Urban Milwaukee found.
For instance, the 53209 area ZIP code has a pocket of heroin and fentanyl deaths from N 65th to N 61st between Silver Spring and Florist Ave. Others were spread out across that ZIP code, almost exclusively occurring in a residence rather than a hospital.
Some deaths are prevented by anti-overdose drugs like Narcan, which is both carried by police and emergency personnel, and distributed to the addict community. “It’s a hard population to identify and connect to,” Lerner notes, but one increasingly coming into the light. She estimates that there is a ratio of one death for four overdoses, which shows the full scale of the addiction crisis. “The deaths you see are a really small part of the larger underlining problems in the community.”
Other less impacted, but still notable zip codes included 53210 with 15 deaths, 53219 with 15 deaths, 53208 with 12 deaths, and 53211 with 11 deaths. If you add the dead in Wauwatosa-area zip codes and eliminate the hospital deaths, the suburb had about 19 deaths.
The county’s overdose deaths mostly involved heroin, fentanyl, or cocaine, but also included various prescription pills. As an aside, not a single death was attributed to THC or organic cannabis despite numerous county initiatives geared specifically towards cannabis. While the Medical Examiner’s data cataloged every known drug-related death, heroin and opioids were the biggest killers. In all, 237 of the 344 deaths were ruled as mixed-drug intoxication.
Lerner notes programs which help address a person’s underlining reasons for using drugs; peer support, therapy, and rehabilitation are vital components. One example piloted in other states is the Angel Program. It allows users to surrender themselves to rehabilitation through a local police department without arrest or charge. The person is then placed with an “Angel” volunteer to guide them through recovery.
Social stigma about drug use “is something we need to face head one and begin to talk about it from the perspective of prevention and being comfortable with it,” Lerner emphasizes. Fentanyl in Milwaukee is making deaths more common, and unpredictable.
Lerner sees a lot of work being done to take on the overdose crisis in Milwaukee. But it’s a big problem to confront. Beyond subtle differences between zip codes or even one block to another, the whole of this Great Lakes city is awash in overdoses, pouring across long roads like National Avenue, Beloit, Appleton, North Avenue and Burleigh.
Update March 6: The story inadvertently left out the numbers for the 53204 ZIP code, which had 28 drug overdose deaths in 2017, including 21 deaths in or near homes in that zip code.
More about the Opioid Crisis
- Meth A Bigger Issue Than Opioids? - Shamane Mills - Jul 6th, 2018
- Sensenbrenner-Backed Legislation to Fight Synthetic Opioids Clears House - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner - Jun 15th, 2018
- Community Engagement Session Hosted by Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force - Ald. Michael Murphy - Jun 4th, 2018
- Brad Schimel and Scott Walker Repeat Mistakes Past; Refuse to Take Legal Action Against Opioid Manufacturers - One Wisconsin Now - Jun 4th, 2018
- State Awards $2.4 Million For Opioid Treatment - Danielle Kaeding - Jun 2nd, 2018
- Campaign Cash: State Politicians Funded by Accused Drug Makers - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - May 26th, 2018
- City-County Plan Targets Opioid Epidemic - Edgar Mendez - May 22nd, 2018
- Brad Schimel Election Ad Blames Families, Not His Pharmaceutical Donors for Opioid Crisis - One Wisconsin Now - May 17th, 2018
- Governor Walker Announces 10% Drop in Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed Over the Past Year - Gov. Scott Walker - May 16th, 2018
- Cocaine Overdose Deaths Have Nearly Tripled - Ximena Conde - May 15th, 2018
- Bryce Calls on Steil to To Reject Donations from Pharmaceutical Companies Fueling the Opioid Crisis - Randy Bryce - May 9th, 2018
- U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Bill Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Halt the Flow of Illicit Fentanyl into the U.S. - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 24th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Colleagues to Call on Administration to Take Immediate Action to Reduce Price of Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 20th, 2018
- Opioid Crisis: The House Where Addicts Die - Isiah Holmes - Apr 18th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address the Opioid Crisis - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 17th, 2018
- Op Ed: Stronger Action Needed on Opioid Crisis - Matt Flynn - Apr 14th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Allow Safe Disposal of Unwanted Drugs in Hospice - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 13th, 2018
- Leah Attends Opioid Taskforce Meeting about Alternative Treatments to Pain - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Apr 13th, 2018
- Walker Signs Vukmir Bill Battling Opioid Crisis - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Apr 10th, 2018
- Combating the Opioid Crisis: Governor Walker Signs Bipartisan Bills on Opioids into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Apr 9th, 2018
- Bipartisan Alternative Drug Treatment Program Signed Into Law - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Apr 3rd, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Hosts Roundtable with Green Bay Officials on Fighting the Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 2nd, 2018
- U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, Todd Young and Edward Markey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Opioid-Related Infectious Diseases - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 23rd, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Announces New Funding for Wisconsin to Combat the Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Vukmir Battles Opioid Epidemic - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Mar 20th, 2018
- Supervisor Peggy West: Time to Hold Drug Makers Accountable - Sup. Peggy A. West - Mar 14th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin to Health Insurers: Step Up Response to Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 5th, 2018
- Latest Report Highlights 20 Percent Decrease in Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed from 2015 to 2017 - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 2nd, 2018
- Tracking Opioid Deaths by ZIP Code - Isiah Holmes - Mar 1st, 2018
- Governor Walker Discusses the Opioid Epidemic at Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Conference - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 5th, 2018
- Vukmir, Nygren Lead Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Jan 19th, 2018
- Governor Walker Takes Additional Action to Fight Opioid Crisis - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 19th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on President Trump To Renew The Opioid Public Health Emergency - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Jan 12th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on President Trump to Sign Bipartisan Legislation Passed by Congress to Help Halt Flow of Illicit Fentanyl into the United States - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Dec 22nd, 2017
- Drug-Related Deaths To Hit 420 in 2017 - Edgar Mendez - Dec 21st, 2017
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators Urging Congressional Leadership to Commit Resources to Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Dec 15th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Brad Schimel’s Opioid Problem - Bruce Murphy - Nov 14th, 2017
- Op Ed: State Leaves Counties to Sue Drug Companies - State Senators Janet Bewley and Dave Hansen - Nov 11th, 2017
- Special Report: Opioid Crisis Hits City Hard - Edgar Mendez - Nov 9th, 2017
- Opioid Crisis Still Growing - Dave Fidlin - Oct 30th, 2017
- Op Ed: Nygren, Sidener Dramatize Opioid Problem - Casey Hoff - Oct 18th, 2017
- Op Ed: The Heroin and Opioid Crisis Is Real - Isiah Holmes - Aug 28th, 2017
- The State of Politics: John Nygren’s War on Drug Abuse - Steven Walters - Jul 10th, 2017
- Op Ed: Opioid Crisis Demands Bipartisan Solutions - Jeff Plale - Feb 24th, 2017
- Prescription Drugs Lead Way to Heroin - Wyatt Massey - Mar 17th, 2016
- Heroin Deaths Up 241% Since 2010 - Wyatt Massey - Mar 16th, 2016