CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — Data gathered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) shows West Virginia is seeing an increase in drug overdose deaths.
The study showed 1,275 overdose deaths occurred through all of 2020. This is 397 more deaths than the 878 reported in 2019. According to the DHHR and the CDC, the entire nation is seeing an increase in overdose deaths, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing cause.
“As Governor Jim Justice has emphasized, while West Virginia is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also continuing to fight the drug overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, Commissioner and State Health Officer of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “This is a disease, not a choice.”
Raleigh County is one of seven WV counties made into ‘action’ counties to aggressively target the overdose crisis. Also, the DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy is putting a focus on transitions of care for those battling substance use disorder to ensure they are receiving screening and treatment.
“We are concerned about what we are seeing in our communities and we also want to emphasize there are many resources to assist people who are struggling,” said Dr. Matthew Christiansen, Director of DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy. “It is important to remember as we see these numbers and statistics that these are people who need our attention, our care, and our help.”
Resources include HELP4WV, which offers 24/7 confidential support and resource referrals through call, text, and chat lines. Residents may call HELP4WV at 844-HELP4WV, or text at 844-435-7498. Additionally, another service, Help304 offers social and emotional counseling through its professional crisis counselors. People may contact Help304 at 1-877-HELP304, or text them at 1-877-435-7304.
For more information on West Virginia’s efforts to combat the substance use epidemic, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/office-of-drug-control-policy/Pages/default.aspx.