County leaders remind public of resources, efforts as overdose deaths continue during pandemic

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As the pandemic's effects continue to cause overdose deaths in the county, leaders are hoping renewed efforts to address the issue can bring those numbers down.

"We've seen an alarming increase in overdose deaths," County Executive David Crowley said during a meeting of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board.

Crowley pointed to the ongoing effects of the pandemic that have led to a concerning rise in deaths caused by overdoses.

"Because of this pandemic, because so many people have been isolated, so many people have not had that physical interaction with somebody that is going to love on them and help them through this difficult time, we're seeing these types of increases," Crowley said.

Crowley discussed how the county intends to use CARES Act dollars for prevention efforts as well as a push towards public service announcement campaigns. The hope is that reminding people of the services and resources the county has will help avoid another year of record deaths.

Groups like the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition applauded Crowley's efforts. They told CBS 58 their organization and others had to adapt in the early days of the pandemic since people were isolated and groups had to work mostly online. That included 24-7 disposal boxes and other tools.

"We had to learn how to reach this big county with only using online platforms, and how do we reach those who don't have access to online," Alexandria Kohn of MCSAPC said in an interview.

Kohn hopes the county continues to focus on programming that helps people early enough to avoid issues becoming more serious.

"On the ground and roots we really need to push prevention and push recovery and push programming to help these individuals into care," Kohn said.

Kohn recognizes the state and county are opening up now that vaccines are available and cases of COVID-19 are dropping, but cautions the pandemic's effects on addiction and substance abuse remain a concern.

"I think we got to keep in mind we don't know the lasting impact of the pandemic and that we have to be aware and almost ready in case those cases go up of overdoses and use and misuse," Kohn said.

Resources from the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition can be found here.

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