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Opioid overdose visits sharply rose during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 9:14 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Hospitals have seen opioid overdose visits increase since 2016, but these numbers really rose when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“Virginia has seen an increase in opioid overdose since the pandemic, unfortunately just the stressors of the pandemic and increased access to fentanyl in communities has led to an increase in overdose,” Region Ten Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition Director Rebecca Kendall said.

Two years ago, overdose visits in Albemarle County and surrounding areas reached 14,542. Last year, those numbers were 18,350, and this year they’re already at 16,184.

This data comes from the Virginia Department of Health, however these numbers don’t show the full picture.

“There’s people who may have EMS respond for an overdose and they don’t actually make it to the emergency department, and there’s also people who may interrupt or prevent an overdose in their homes,” Kendall said.

Region Ten teaches people how to respond if they are with someone who has overdosed. It offers Narcan training and supplies.

“We have made significant efforts in the community to try to get it out for free so that people don’t have to go to a pharmacy if they’re not insured,” Kendall said.

While putting Narcan in the hands of the community is helping, calling 911 is still important.

“There’s new protections in place for people, when they call 911 for overdose, they’re recognized as a good Samaritan so it doesn’t place them at risk to actually call 911,″ Kendall said.

More information on how to get Narcan and access other resources to prevent overdoses can be found here.

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