Accidental overdose deaths are on the rise through the first six months of the year and are expected to outpace last year’s deaths, according to data from the state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
“Recovery isn’t this elusive, esoteric concept,” Kevin Shuler, a recovery coach with Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), said. “It’s tangible, attainable and real and it’s available. It’s available for anybody.”
The pandemic has created an illusion that there’s increased barriers to access to care when that’s not the case.
Based on the first six months of the year, Connecticut's accidental overdose deaths are expected to be 13.5% higher than last year. In 2019 there were 1,200 accidental overdoses. Connecticut is projected to end the year with 1,362 overdoses. In the first six months of 2020, Connecticut saw 681 accidental overdoses, most or 93% involving opioids.
“Addiction isn’t just a stage that I overcame and I’m looking to resume my daily life. I personally feel I have an obligation to put a hand back and pull people up,” Shuler said.
COVID-19 has presented challenges.
“Home life issues that have been produced by the impact of covid, loss of employment, closing of shelters,” Shuler said.
But help and services are still available. CCAR still has recovery coaches in emergency rooms and their recovery centers are open, even though capacity is limited due to social distancing.
“Our emergency room recovery coach program is pretty much back in all the hospitals that we had to fall back from at the height of COVID,” Tom Russo, CCAR communications manager, said.
The recovery centers are open again too.
“We have reduced capacity and reduced hours, but we’re still there because understand that because people are facing all those challenges,” Russo said.
There are still insurance barriers to treatment and the inability to get a quick turnaround on a COVID-19 test could cost someone a recovery bed.
The state has been doing a lot to make sure people get connected to services and treatment.
“If somebody is at home and if they’re struggling or a family member is struggling they can call our 1-800 number that is 1-800-563-4086,” Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said.
If they need detox, the state will pick them up and give them a ride.
“One of the main things we want people to know is that recovery is possible and very real and there are multiple entryways into our treatment system,” Delphin-Rittmon said.