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Overdose deaths increased in early 2020 after steady decline

New data released by the state health department shows an increase in overdoses from January to June of 2020
Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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UPPER MICHIGAN, Mich. (WLUC) - Overdose deaths are increasing during the pandemic. This comes after the state had made progress with overdose deaths.

In 2019, the deaths were at the lowest point since 2016 and down more than 9 percent from the year before.

However, new data released by the state health department shows an increase in overdoses from January of 2020 to June -- up 16 percent from the same months in 2019.

“Those numbers in 2020 do look like they will be higher,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS Medical Director for Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs.

The state health department says it’s too early to know exactly what is behind the increase. However:

“Obviously COVID-19 has had a high impact,” said Pinals. “People are more at home. We know anxiety rates and depression rates are up. These are major concerns.”

The increase comes as a hit to the state’s goal of cutting opioid-related deaths in half by 2024.

“We’ve taken this approach of really strategizing around front-end prevention,” said Pinals. “Let’s prevent people from getting opioid-use disorder as much as we can.”

Pinals says the plan is to double down on that effort moving forward.

“We’ve expanded in terms of treatment and intervention,” said Pinals. “We’ve expanded medication assistant treatment efforts.”

The health department says it will continue prevention measures and says if you, or someone you know, needs help with a substance use disorder, call the national 24/7 hotline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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