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Drug Overdoses In Southwest Ohio Increase During 2020

A nighttime outdoor meeting in September 2020 hosted by Families of Addicts.
Lori Erion
A nighttime outdoor meeting in September 2020 hosted by Families of Addicts.

COVID-19 introduced setbacks for recovering addicts in Ohio, but local support groups and organizations are fighting to slow the growing crisis.

Lori Erion is the CEO of Families of Addicts, a local support group that helps families and victims of addiction find peace and recovery. She’s seen up close the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic to people recovering from drug addiction. She says her organization’s transition from in-person to virtual group meetings led to fewer people showing up. And the pandemic stimulus payments weren’t always good news.

“People now had access to potentially more money if they were getting back unemployment dollars because they were no longer able to serve or work or whatever it is that they were doing," said Erion. "Getting a lump sum of money often times can be a trigger.”

Melody Kingsley is the Health Educator at Greene County Public Health in Xenia. She says a lot of people were released from recovery programs early due to the pandemic. And she says there’s also more Fentanyl circulating in street drugs. That could be a reason for the increase in overdose deaths as well.

Melody Kinglsey
Shayleigh Frank
Melody Kingsley speaking about Greene County Public Health

“2017 was the worst year," said Kingsley, "We had the highest number of unintentional drug overdoses in our county. It had been declining, and the numbers that we've gotten back for 2020 show that it's higher than 2017. So, it has increased quite a bit.”

Kingsley says Public Health has developed multiple outreach programs such as Project DAWN, or Deaths Avoided With Naloxone. When patients come to the county’s syringe exchange events, they also have the opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccine on site while they wait.