RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – The United States has recorded more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in one year for the first time, according to the CDC. The deaths occurred between April 2020 and April 2021.
According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 2019 to 2020 saw the largest year-over-year increase in drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in the past 20 years. The 2021 figures are not yet released.
As drug overdose deaths rise in North Carolina and across the country, so too are the number of people seeking help at Healing Transitions, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Raleigh.
Chirs Budnick is the Executive Director of Healing Transitions. He said the demand for their services has grown steadily over the past five years.
“COVID has done nothing to help reverse or change this trend,” Budnick said.
He pointed out that stress, isolation and lack of access to in-person recovery during the pandemic were leading to an increase in numbers. The center has had to reduce its capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It has been incredibly difficult for the staff to operate in these conditions not being able to help everyone who asks for help, and also having to navigate how we bring people in in a sorted way that includes quarantine periods before they become fully involved. program, ”Budnick said.
The number of people Healing Transitions works with who have overdosed has increased from 331 in 2019 to 429 in 2020, and is currently at 476 in 2021, according to Budnick. He said he received 11% more patient referrals from Wake EMS this year than in 2020, and 44% more referrals than in 2019.
Budnick said that a slight increase in fentanyl in non-opioid drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine also made it more difficult.
Courtni Wright is the Rapid Response Team Leader within the Healing Transitions Post-Overdose Response Team, sharing her own story with those she helps.
“I tell them I’m like them,” Wright said. “I was them. I was the opioid addict who couldn’t go a day without getting high, and that’s how I make that connection. I’m just 100% honest with them and let them know I’m there for them no matter what.
She said work has been uninterrupted since June or July 2020.
“What I discovered is that I save lives,” she said. “By giving everyone Narcan, giving him harm reduction supplies, feeding him that day, I helped save his life, if only for another night.”
Healing Transitions is expanding, increasing its designated capacity at the men’s facility from 165 to 290 and from 88 to 210 at the women’s facility. Budnick said construction is expected to be completed around early 2023 at men’s facilities and late 2022 at women’s facilities.