recovery

And the other pandemic keeps going

Deaths and overdoses are up from last year. But county staff and agencies are working hard to reverse the trend

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 12/16/20

MONTICELLO, NY — “We had a peaceful period, but this past month, we had three deaths from opioids.” said Sullivan County coroner Albee Bockman. “Every day, we’re …

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recovery

And the other pandemic keeps going

Deaths and overdoses are up from last year. But county staff and agencies are working hard to reverse the trend

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — “We had a peaceful period, but this past month, we had three deaths from opioids.” said Sullivan County coroner Albee Bockman. “Every day, we’re responding to an opioid call.”

Sullivan County has seen 186 overdoses this year, said deputy public health director Wendy Brown. At the end of July it was 137.

For comparison:  In 2019 there were 113 overdoses through August, according to director of communications Dan Hust.

Brown and Bockman were reporting to the Legislature at December’s public safety meeting.

Brown also noted that public health has counted 26 deaths for the year through October, up from 18 at the end of July. In 2019 it was 28 for the year, according to New York’s quarterly opioid report.

Narcan has been administered 131 times, up from 96 in July.

Figures have to be checked and statistics lag. Causes of death need to be checked and reported numbers can change. Definitive national and state figures through November 2020 aren’t available yet. But this gives a picture of where we are now.

It’s not all worrying

Brown praised the work of the county’s opioid task force. A combination of county staff, law enforcement and local nonprofits, plus family members affected by the crisis and mental health experts, the group is a chance for those affected by opioids to sit down, talk to each other and coordinate their efforts.

Nationally, there’s an upwards trend in overdoses and deaths.

The U.S. had already seen staggering numbers of deaths from drug overdoses—70,980 in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.bit.ly/CDCopioid51). Fifty thousand of those deaths were from opioids.

This year is on track to be worse. It takes a long time for a statistical picture to become clear, but the Associated Press looked at recent data from nine states and found many double-digit increases in drug overdose deaths.

Mental health issues, exacerbated during the pandemic, could help drive it. A study this past June found that 10 percent of respondents “reported that they started or increased substance use because of COVID-19.”

Compared to the AP’s grim numbers, Sullivan County’s figures look better. But the task force, Brown said, hasn’t slowed down, even with the pandemic. “We’re making some progress,” she said. “We’re coming together to communicate and get information out.”

And in the process, they’re working to make sure that victims of the other pandemic aren’t forgotten.

For more information, for help, or to see how you can help, visit Sullivan County’s Opioid prevention page at www.sullivanny.us/Departments/Publichealth/Opoidprevention. Information for Wayne County can be found at www.waynecountypa.gov/767/Stop-Opioid-Abuse-Campaign.

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