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DHS: Suspected opioid overdoses up 117 percent

Thursday, July 23, 2020  
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July 23, Wisconsin Health News

The Department of Health Services said Wednesday that suspected opioid overdoses are up 117 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the same time in 2019. 

Preliminary data show 325 suspected opioid overdoses from March to July 13, compared to 150 suspected overdoses during the same time in 2019. 

Paul Krupski, DHS director of opioid initiatives, said the pandemic has increased stress and anxiety. 

“For individuals who have struggled with substance abuse and may currently be in treatment for that, this adds an extra layer to the challenges,” Krupski told reporters. “What we’re really trying to stress is to make sure that they know that there are healthy ways to cope with it. There are ways to make sure they continue down their path of recovery.”

According to a DHS statement, calls to 211 Wisconsin that include request for information on behavioral health have also increased. Under additional funding from DHS, specialists with the Addiction Recovery Helpline are now able to follow up with people asking for help.

The department has launched its Resilient Wisconsin campaign during the pandemic, which promotes healthy ways of dealing with stress and trauma. Program Manager Robin Matthies, said the pandemic has increased anxiety. 

“It’s just really important that folks are paying attention to how they feel and to how people they care about might be doing,” Matthies said.