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Opioid Overdoses Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic

Wisconsin DHS

Wisconsin is experiencing an increase in opioid drug abuse. 

As of June of this year, 2,147 people had been to the hospital because of opioids.

If you look at the same time frame in 2019, there had be 1,727 hospitalizations, according to data from the Department of Health Services.

Forest County Potawatomi Health & Wellness Administrator Thomas Boelter says he’s seen an increase in drug use during the pandemic, but that hasn’t necessarily translated to overdoses and deaths.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to manage the number of overdoses because we’ve had good contact with our patients and clients,” said Boelter.

Over the years, Forest County Potawatomi has been very proactive when it comes to drugs and addiction.

The latest example during the pandemic has been through the Chairman’s twice-monthly online COVID updates.

“In there we’re constantly reminding people of the services we offer. We have an open-door approach. We’ll work with any member, any person within the community that needs it. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night or the early morning,” said Boelter.

Boelter points to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic as a possible trigger for people to turning to drugs.

“Anytime there’s that there’s anything that brings anxiety to an individual that could be enough to set somebody off, people are generally trying to find a balance,” Boelter said.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

That balance is also why the Health and Wellness Center takes a mental, physical, and spiritual approach to treating drug addiction.

It’s an approach that has also been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They tell everybody to stay home, but people that have problems with addiction, sometimes they need to be in-person and they need to see people. We use telehealth, we use the computer systems, but sometimes that’s not enough,” said Boelter.

Boelter wants to people who are struggling to know they’re not alone and it’s okay to ask for help, even when it’s difficult.

“A person that’s afraid to let somebody else know they should look at it like, ‘hey maybe I can help somebody else. So if you can’t do it for yourself, then maybe do it for someone else and in the meantime get a little bit for yourself,” said Boelter.

You can learn more about services available on the Health and Wellness Center website.

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