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Clark County health officials say data reveals overdose spike during pandemic

In 2020, Clark County had 356 total overdoses which is a stark increase from 233 overdoses in 2019, according to data from Clark Memorial Health.

CLARK COUNTY, Ind. — The pandemic and shutdowns affected everyone, but for those that struggle with addiction, the impact was profound. 

In 2020, Clark County had 356 total overdoses. A stark increase from 233 overdoses in 2019, according to data from Clark Memorial Health.

Why was there such a large increase? 

"When COVID hit, there were financial stresses, lack of structure, isolation. It was devastating for those who were trying to recover," said Yazel. 

Yazel says for addicts, the community is one of the biggest aspects of recovery. And when shutdowns were put in place, it stripped those recovering of their resources. There were limited addiction and mental health services available.

In this chart, you can see the heroin overdoses in Clark County for 2016-2020. Yazel says he looks at heroin data because it shows what is happening in the community. 

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"Now we can get it (the data) lined out so differently, and that is why I always watch the heroin one because it shows what is generally happening in the community," he said. 

According to data from Clark Memorial Health, 56 people died from overdoses in Clark County in 2020. That number is not finalized due to Indiana implementing a new death registry. 

Yazel says the December data has not come through, so that number could increase. 

"You know one of the big inferences for me that I noticed is out of those 56 deaths, 37 had fentanyl in their screens and that is a big deal," he said. 

Yazel says for 2021, his hope is that programs will continue. Programs include providing training for first responders and health care departments on how to use Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. He says education and honesty are key parts of the equation. 

Credit: WHAS11 News

"The main thing is education. We are not here to fear monger anyone, but at the same time we have got to say listen here are our numbers. We are not overstating them," he said. 

Credit: WHAS11 News

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