CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A now visible trend during the pandemic is a spike in fatal overdoses nationwide according to the CDC.
Here in the state of West Virginia, it’s an all too familiar heartache.
In the span of just one year, the Mountain State’s overdoses went up by 31%.
According to newly released preliminary data by the Department of Health and Human Resources, the state reports that in 2020 the number of confirmed reported overdoses was 1275, up from 878 reported in 2019.
“We have a couple of different pandemics going on right now and one of them is hopelessness,” said Angi Kerns, a Charleston resident who is a counselor for addicts in recovery.
She says drug use is a symptom of a larger problem.
“It’s been really scary, to be honest with you because even among people who have been in long-term recovery – I’ve been in recovery for 10 years myself – there have been people who have been in recovery 20-plus years who have succumbed this past year; again there’s just so much disconnection and there’s so much hopelessness and pain,” said Kerns.
In a statement, West Virginia Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad wrote: “While West Virginia is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also continuing to fight the drug overdose pandemic. This is a disease, not a choice.”
The state is now pushing for people to utilize their resources, like Help 4 WV which offers free referral and counseling services online and via phone.
But Kerns say more drug treatment facilities are needed.
Last fall a residential treatment facility proposed on Oakridge Road in Charleston was met with opposition by the community and ultimately scrapped by the zoning board.
More treatment centers and less stigma.
“They want to cry about how many people are struggling with addiction and are in transient situations but then if you try to start a program to get them recovery or train them in jobs or get them housing, then you’re met with just as much opposition and rage,” said Kerns.
More resources for drug addiction can be found here:
HELP4WV: 1-844-435-7498 www.help4wv.com
Help304: 1-877-435-7304 www.help304.com
National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-talk (8255)