STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — The pandemic is not the only health crisis affecting Stanislaus County; the opioid crisis has only gotten worse.
The county saw a significant increase in the number of people who died from drug overdose, and specifically opioid overdose, in 2020.
“It’s not just a Stanislaus County problem, although it affects us here in the county, but it’s a statewide issue, I dare say, is a nationwide issue,” said Dr. Bernardo Mora, the medical director with the county’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.
Dr. Mora said drug overdoses in the county more than doubled last year.
“It doesn’t just affect, obviously, the one person who’s died,” Dr. Mora told FOX40. “It’s their friends, their family, their loved ones or acquaintances, their co-workers, you know, all of those. So it’s a huge impact.
New data released by the Stanislaus County Opioid Safety Coalition shows 132 people died in 2020, compared to 78 in 2019.
Based on the latest figures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 87,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12 months prior to September of 2020.
“Pandemic has affected everyone, and including those that have substance abuse issues,” Mora explained.
The CDC attributes the rise in deaths to the pandemic, which may have driven those already struggling with addiction further into the shadows. COVID-19 brought about increased isolation, while also disrupting traditional drug treatment support systems that might otherwise have been able to save people.
“Previously, if someone were in trouble, you know, they might have been rescued by their friends or their family or somebody. Maybe there was less of that,” Mora said.
Experts say they also saw the rise of chemically-altered opioids like fentanyl.
“That’s frankly dangerous. It’s life-threatening,” Mora said.
Mora said he wants people to be aware that the opioid epidemic has not gone away and encourages anyone struggling to seek help because recovery is possible.
“Just to prevent those deaths because they can be preventable,” he said.