Ohio AG reveals record surge of opioid overdoses during start of pandemic

Miami Valley News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reports a spike in opioid overdoses in 2020, and says people need to refocus on preventing overdose deaths. 

The numbers show overdoses spiked in the spring of 2020, when much of the state was first pushed into social isolation. There was another bounce in June, though right now numbers are trending downward. Still, the attorney general and advocates for people overcoming addiction stress these issues aren’t going away, and we all need to remain vigilant. 

Helen Jones-Kelley is the Executive Director of ADAMHS. She says, “We saw many of the deaths that were occurring then were people in isolation.” The isolation for many began in March and April as the state instituted stay at home advisories and closed many gathering spaces. Jones-Kelley says, “People who are routinely in groups for recovery purposes, need to have access to other people.” 

She says many people are laid off or without social connections, and some people start to lose hope and self-medicate. “We have definitely seen an extreme increase in the use of other ways of getting through the day.” 

Virtual platforms have helped a little, some people meet in small groups with social distancing guidelines, and outreach like phone calls and letters works. But Montgomery County and Clark County are still among the state’s worst. 

Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger says, “Our number one overdose chemical is fentanyl. Probably 70% of our cases have fentanyl.” He adds another 20% of overdose deaths are due to meth and cocaine. 

Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement quote: “This is alarming data, and while COVID has rightly captured our attention, we cannot lose sight of the threat the opioid epidemic brings to all areas of Ohio” 

Jones-Kelley says it will take a while to push through trauma and depression from the pandemic. “To be honest, we have a long road ahead of us because the next thing is already happening. That is an increase mental health challenges.” 

Helen Jones-Kelley told the story of a woman who progressed through an entire recovery program. The accomplishment was so impressive that ADAMHS held her up as an example for others to look to. But that woman died yesterday from COVID-19, a reminder some people are facing many challenges, some of them all at once. 

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