Drug overdose deaths hit record high in pandemic 2020 for Milwaukee County

NOW: Drug overdose deaths hit record high in pandemic 2020 for Milwaukee County

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Outside of COVID-19, drug deaths were the leading cause on non-natural deaths in Milwaukee County during 2020.

Milwaukee’s Meta House is getting more calls to help women overcome substance abuse. But it has become harder to help due to social distancing rules.

“Without having ready access to treatment, or some of the groups that might have otherwise supported them," Meta House CEO Valerie Vidal said. "We’re really seeing an uptick in the need, but then also unfortunate outcomes.”

Those unfortunate outcomes increasingly result in death.

Milwaukee hit its highest drug overdose total on record during the pandemic in 2020. The medical examiners office has seen an increase in drug deaths almost every year since 2013.

“This pandemic has certainly shined a light on that, and folks are really putting a lot of attention on that now, but it’s been an issue for this county for a long time, "Milwaukee County Medical Examiners Office Technical Forensic Director Sara Schreiber said. "And there’s many people that have suffered because of that, and still currently are.”

Opiods, specifically fentanyl, account for nearly three fourths of all county overdose deaths. The ME's Office is growing more concerned about people mixing opioids with cocaine.

“You have a substance use individual that’s used to using a stimulant that’s now exposed to an opioid," Schreiber said. "So they could be opiate naïve, which makes them very susceptible to the toxicity.”

Many local leaders recommend dialing 2-1-1 to get started with local help. They can put you on the phone with a licensed counselor, and the line is open 24/7.

“We’re not your family," IMPACT 2-1-1 President John Hyatt said. "We’re not a friend, right, we don’t know you. We’re going to listen to you, and we’re going to hear what you have going on, and we’ll help you think about it.”

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