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Opioid overdoses spike during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 12:28 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Opioid overdoses have spiked at an alarming rate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those on the front lines of the crisis and those who struggle with addiction themselves also say now is the time to act.

“The trends that I am seeing on the street — because I am a recovery advocate — is that we have people overdosing every single day, every single day,” said Kara Richardson, who works for Blue Earth County Drug Court.

In recent years, the use of opioids, other illegal drugs and overdoses have been on the rise in the United States, Minnesota and even in our own backyard, according to data recently released by the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Mayo Clinic paramedics and EMTs have administered Narcan 28 times in 2019. That number jumped to 56 times in 2020. We are expecting an additional 7% increase in those numbers in 2021,” said Kris Keltgen, manager of ambulance operations at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Mayo Clinic paramedics and EMTs administered Narcan, a medication used to block the effects of...
Mayo Clinic paramedics and EMTs administered Narcan, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, 28 times in 2019. That number jumped to 56 times in 2020. Mayo Clinic Health System officials are expecting that number to increase an additional 7% in 2021.(KEYC)

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, overall drug overdoses jumped 20% between 2019 and 2020. Opioid overdoses had a 59% increase in that time frame, from 412 to 654 overdoses.

The increasing overdoses have become an alarming issue for health officials, first responders and public safety.

“Now is the opportunity to reverse these trends. It is an opportunity to bring awareness, it is an opportunity to talk about this,” Mankato Public Safety Deputy Director Matt DuRose said.

It especially hits home for the family members who have lost a loved one due to addiction.

“As a mother, hearing that about your child is heartbreaking. I want people to know he was caring, he loved people to a fault,” explained Judy Greske, who lost her son to opioids.

Many people who have been hit the hardest by this epidemic are coming together and using their voices to help anyone who is struggling with substance abuse.

“Let’s put a personal face on this so people start seeing people with addiction problems as people and not statistics,” Greske said.

Others who have experienced the struggle of addiction want to see people find a positive path forward.

“Most importantly, I am a woman in long-term recovery, so I know there is a way out,” Richardson said.

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