While the number of drug overdoses in Butler County is higher this year than the same period last year, those statistics are distorted because of a spike in February, officials asid.
Those in the drug rehabilitation business have said they were concerned about increased drug overdoses during the coronavirus pandemic as people struggled with unemployment, depression and anxiety; reduced face-to-face drug prevention counseling; and people using drugs alone because of social distancing means no one is there to call for help or administer lifesavings to reverse an overdose.
During the first four months this year, the Butler County Coroner’s Office has determined 62 deaths were drug overdoses, nine more than the same time last year. Martin Schneider, office administrator, noted there were 21 overdoses in February, but that spike can’t be attributed to COVID-19 because they occurred the month before the restrictions.
Dr. Scott Rasmus, executive director of Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board, said he hasn’t seen an increase in drug overdoses, suicides or mental health issues. But, he warned, the longer the restrictions related to the coronavirus last, the more likely those health risks may spike.
“I do have a concern about that,” he said.
He’s also bothered about reports he has heard that calls for domestic violence incidents have tripled in some police departments around the nation. He credited the increase to the “change in circumstances” at home where couples are spending more time together since most employees are working remotely.
Dr. Robert Haley, chief executive officer of Quality Individualized Services (QIS) in Monroe, said his company provides addiction services working primarily with individuals who are addicted to opiates. The business provides counseling, medical services, and lab services.
He has seen an increase in drug relapses as many agencies that once supported drug addicts are either closed or have limited hours. He said medical services have been diverted to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about drug addiction during COVID-19, he said: “It never stopped. It only increased.”
He said when those dependant on illegal drugs lose their jobs, become depressed or feel anxiety, they “do what they do best: they use drugs.”
Haley attended numerous Heroin Summit meetings at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown that were started by then-City Manager Doug Adkins in response to the heroin epidemic. Through the summit numerous programs were started and credited for reducing the number of drug overdoses in the region.
Middletown reported 77 fatal overdoses in 2017, 53 in 2018 and about 48 last year, according to the city’s monthly substance abuse report.
But Haley said that progress has been “decimated” due to COVID-19. He predicts there will be a “significant increase” of overdoses in the coming months.
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