CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released preliminary data regarding 2020 fatal drug overdoses in the state, indicating an increase in overdose deaths. There have been 1,275 confirmed overdoses reported in 2020, increasing from 878 reported in 2019. Data are preliminary and will change as death certificates are processed.
An increase in overdose deaths has been seen nationwide and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recent increase began in 2019 and continued into 2020 before the pandemic. However, the CDC reported increases in overdose deaths appeared to have accelerated during the pandemic.
“As Governor Jim Justice has emphasized, while West Virginia is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also continuing to fight the drug overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, Commissioner and State Health Officer of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “This is a disease, not a choice.”
DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy has established seven action counties — Berkeley, Cabell, Kanawha, Logan, Monongalia, Raleigh, and Wood counties — and is aggressively supporting naloxone distribution and identifying areas of high need. Additionally, the office is continuing to focus on transitions of care for people who have substance use disorder to ensure they are receiving screening and treatment, along with naloxone at discharge.
“We are concerned about what we are seeing in our communities and we also want to emphasize there are many resources to assist people who are struggling,” said Dr. Matthew Christiansen, Director of DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy. “It is important to remember as we see these numbers and statistics that these are people who need our attention, our care, and our help.”
Resources include HELP4WV, which offers 24/7 confidential support and resource referrals through call, text, and chat lines. Since 2015, the program has helped more than 41,000 people access substance use disorder and behavioral health treatment. HELP4WV also offers a Children’s Crisis and Referral line. Residents may call HELP4WV at 844-HELP4WV, text at 844-435-7498, or chat at www.help4wv.com.
Additionally, another service, Help304 offers social and emotional counseling through its professional crisis counselors. People may contact Help304 at 1-877-HELP304, text at 1-877-435-7304, or chat at http://help304.com.
People also may contact the National Suicide Prevention Line, which provides 24/7 free and confidential support, prevention, and crisis resources, at 800-273-TALK (8255).
“Governor Justice and DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health are committed to making a difference by funding programs that work,” added Christina Mullins, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health. “The HELP4WV and Help304 hotlines provide immediate assistance to all West Virginians, 24/7. If you or a member or a family member need help, please reach out today.”
For more information on West Virginia’s efforts to combat the substance use epidemic, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/office-of-drug-control-policy/Pages/default.aspx.