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The United States has seen a number of challenges with the advent of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Learning a new enemy–the novel coronavirus–and how to fight it, dealing with nearly 49 million cases and over three-quarters of a million deaths is only one facet of this compound enemy.

We have dealt with record-breaking unemployment, income loss, evictions, and business closures. And while the overall crime rate is down, violent crimes such as domestic battery, gun violence and homicide have increased on a large scale. Mental health distress continues to rise as well.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released provisional data showing that deaths by drug overdose in the US have seen an overwhelming 28.5% increase over a 12-month period (100,306 compared to 78,056 the previous 12 months), from April 2020 – April 2021. This is the first time the country has experienced over 100,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in that length of time.

Unfortunately, Kenosha County has seen an even more drastic increase in overdose deaths during the same time period. During the 12-month span, which ended in April 2021, the Kenosha County Medical Examiner’s Office had recorded 55 toxicity deaths compared with 35 deaths the previous year; a staggering 57% increase.

“Nationally, the picture is bleak, and it is unfortunately no less alarming locally,” said Kenosha County Medical Examiner Patrice Hall in a news release. “While 2019 showed a marked reduction of toxicity deaths in our county, there have been a number of rough months since the onset of the pandemic.”

Hall is part of the Kenosha County Opioid Task Force, which was founded in 2017 and this year became a subcommittee of the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. The Coalition has valuable resources compiled on their website as well as hard copies of a resource card which are available at the Aging, Disability and Behavioral Health table within the Kenosha County Job Center’s main lobby at 800 Sheridan Rd. in Kenosha.

One of the most valuable resources we have to combat overdose deaths locally is free Narcan training and supplies through the Kenosha County Public Health Narcan Distribution Program or by calling 262-605-6741.

Narcan comes as a nasal spray and is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose such as Heroin, Vicodin, Oxycontin and Fentanyl. Dr. Jen Freiheit, Kenosha County Health Officer and co-chair of the Substance Abuse Coalition, urges those who use opioids or are around opioid users to equip themselves with Narcan.

“Narcan has saved many lives in Kenosha County, and it’s free and easy to access for anyone in the community,” Freiheit said. “Many times, saving a life is the first step toward recovery, and it’s important to remember that while the numbers look bleak, recovery is possible.” 

Combat Overdose Deaths with these Valuable Community Resources

Fentanyl Test Strips, which allow users to determine whether there is Fentanyl present in other substances, are available through Vivent Health. Call 262-657-6644 for more information.

Kenosha County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center links people to myriad resources and can be reached Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 262-764-8555.

Kenosha County Crisis Hotline, operated by Kenosha Human Development Services, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 262-657-7188.