HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Deaths from overdoses are up 31% in Alabama, and local first responders are feeling the impact.
Since the start of the pandemic, more people are dying from drug overdoses. It's happening across the nation, and Alabama is seeing some of the highest overdose death rates in the country.
HEMSI Community Relations Officer Don Webster says they've seen a significant increase in overdose calls since the pandemic.
Over 200 more people in Alabama died from overdose in 2020 compared to 2019, and local numbers show this trend is continuing.
In 2019, Alabama had 719 overdose deaths. In 2020, Alabama had 944 overdose deaths.
Webster says they have seen a 25% increase in overdoses.
In 2020, HEMSI responded to 763 overdose calls. That averages about two a day. As of Tuesday, they have responded to 376 overdose calls. That averages about two and a half a day.
A new report shows opioids account for nearly 70% of overdose deaths in the U.S. Webster says many of the overdose calls they've responded to during the pandemic are a result of opioids like fentanyl.
With more people than ever experiencing isolation, financial problems, and less access to addiction support, the pandemic could be partly to blame.
"We're just now to the point of people getting back to somewhat of what we call a normalcy, getting out, going to the ball games, going to the picnics and various outdoor activities," said Webster. "So it'll be interesting to see what our May and June numbers look like."
The pandemic created its own set of challenges for HEMSI, and with an overall increase in calls, it's taking a toll on first responders.
"We're busier, and we're working our employees," said Webster. "We have a shortage of employees due to various different reasons."
HEMSI is encouraging people struggling with addiction to reach out for help.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline can be reached 24/7 at 844-307-1760.
Partnership for a Drug-Free Community is a non-profit organization dedicated to drug prevention and education primarily among youth. Click here for more information.
Not One More Alabama supports families whose lives have been impacted by addiction. Click here for more information.
You can also use filters for an interactive Treatment Finder to search for various types of treatment programs in your area and throughout the country.
For a list of treatment resources in Alabama, click here.
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