Overdoses increase during pandemic, Heartland group fights back

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 9:30 AM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 12, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT - Updated May 13 at 4:20 AM on

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (Great Health Divide) - Nationally, the Center for Disease Control Prevention reported a 30 percent increase in drug overdose deaths.

Here in the Heartland, Kentucky saw a staggering 53 percent increase, with Illinois at 34 percent and Missouri at nearly 22 percent.

According to the Gibson Recovery Center’s Chief Operations Officer, battling drug abuse on lockdown one of the biggest challenges of the last 14 months.

“Luckily, now that we have the vaccine and our staff are vaccinated, we can see people in person again and get out in the communities more to do outreach,” said Ryan Essex.

That outreach includes getting the life-saving drug Narcan to clients in danger of overdose. It also means staff members can get back to sharing their own stories of abuse and recovery face-to-face.

“Whenever I talk about addiction, I’m not talking out of theory,” said Scott Moyers, Gibson’s Director of Clinical Support Services. “I am talking about my own lived experience as a person who has struggled with substance use disorder for the big chunk of my life.”

During the pandemic Moyers said they saw a lot of people return to substance abuse.

“Whether that’s because of stress or the anxiety, and the fears of living in a pandemic,” said Moyers.

That’s why the center is offering its services to more people who find themselves in need right now.

“We’ve started a crisis counseling program for those that are struggling with particular stress of the pandemic whether it be themselves contracting COVID-19 or family member or stress of losing a job,” Essex said.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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