As country, Texas sees climb in drug overdose deaths, Wichita Co. nonprofits work to combat local problem

Local News

WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — Staggering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are putting a new focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health in America.

Drug overdose deaths soared nearly 30% in 2020 and in states like Texas, those numbers are even higher.

Wichita Falls police said deaths in the city are low but nonprofits are still seeing an increase in clients.

Fentanyl, along with isolation and stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, is spurring the surge, but nonprofits like Helen Farabee and Hope Center Ministries want people to know they are here to help.

Ten months in a year-long program, after a couple of decades of what he calls bad choices, Brian Rogers said he is now getting his life and family back.

“I started using whenever I was 15 [or] 16-years-old started with prescription medicine and Marijuana and ended up using Methamphetamine and Cocaine and eventually became a heroin addict by the time I was twenty years old,” Roger said.

Recent studies show an increase in drug use and overdose in the country, Texas following that trend with a 32% increase in reported or predicted cases.

Many including Paul Hicks, Director of Hope Center Ministries, said the pandemic has been a major factor in these startling numbers.

“This is a real epidemic, people are dying every day, we’ve seen it first-hand in our centers, we have people who have left and overdosed and so it is something we really are trying to target strategically,” Fisk said.

The CDC said an alarming 93% overdose deaths in the U.S. just last year as opposed to 72,000 from the previous year a 29% increase.

Preliminary reports said 1,000 more Texans died from drug overdoses in 2020 than in 2019.

Helen Farabee’s Brad Fisk said this is an ongoing issue whether there is a pandemic year or not.

“From my experience, the numbers have remained pretty consistent actually, there may have been some increase due to the pandemic especially with adults, I’m sure not saying that the increase is not there,” Fisk said.

Wichita Falls Police Department reports 150 overdoses, one of which was fatal between January 1, 2019, and October 31, 2020.

Rogers said for folks who find themselves coping with stress through substance use, there is help available.

“If you find yourself becoming dependent or having a misuse issue of any type of substance but especially opioids don’t be afraid to reach out, don’t be ashamed to reach out to say, ‘hey I got a problem here and I need to do something about it,'” Fisk said.

Rogers, Hicks and Fisk encourage Texomans to support those they know battling with addiction so together they can combat this crisis.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will receive an additional $210 million from the federal government to address the state’s issues.

If you are someone you know is struggling with substance abuse contact 1-800-662-4357.

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