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‘It exchanges one pandemic with the other’: Eastern Kentucky officials discuss alarming increase in overdose deaths

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - As overdose deaths in Kentucky continue to increase at an alarming rate, officials in the area are on high alert.

“In the first roughly 5-6 weeks of the pandemic, we saw five of our former clients lose their life to overdose death,” Matt Brown with Addiction Recovery Care said.

Deaths by overdose in the Commonwealth increased by 50% between September 2019 and September 2020. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Kentucky saw 1,956 fatalities last year, up from 1,304 in 2019.

Those with Addiction Recovery Care have taken notice.

”We are aware of losing more former clients than probably the last five to 10 years combined,” Brown said.

Officials in Perry County have as well. Deputy Coroner Jeff Combs said that the isolation spurred from the pandemic could be playing a major factor.

“When you take an isolated area and you shut it down even more, that causes, like, what else is there to do?” Combs said. “So people kind of revert to that depression and things that they tend to think brings them out of that depression.”

Combs feels that at this point, one bad situation is being traded for another.

“You see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and then in the background you have this silent pandemic of drugs that come into these impoverished areas,” Combs said. “And so it just kind of exchanges one pandemic with the other.”

So much so that families and livelihoods are now at risk.

“Addiction has taken away moms from kids, husbands from wives, it’s really stolen so many dreams and broken so many families,” Brown said. “Our work has never been more important and it’s never been more urgent.”

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