HILLVIEW, Ky. — The coronavirus pandemic has further complicated another sweeping health problem in the Commonwealth: the opioid epidemic.
It's been six months since COVID-19 struck the state, and Hillview Mayor Jim Eadens says opioid use hasn't let up in his city. In fact, the pandemic has made it more difficult for volunteers and specialists to help those with addictions by administering the Naloxone overdose antidote, Narcan.
The Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) shows that EMS service calls for overdoses have increased dramatically statewide. According to Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center data, EMS calls for overdoses jumped from below 30 per month before the pandemic became a state emergency to 60 per month in May as businesses began reopening.
These aren't just numbers for Eadens, a father of two and grandfather of one.
"I have [one] son that struggles daily with [addiction]," he explained.
It's another reason he cares tremendously for the people suffering from addiction in his city. Although coronavirus may have slowed the pace of business around town, Eadens says it hasn't slowed addiction.
"Overdoses are almost on a daily basis. At least, at least four or five a week...We just had an overdose [that] snorted pretty much straight fentanyl," he claimed.
Fortunately, Eadens says most people are saved from death, but he admits neighborhood efforts to get Narcan out to those in need have been hindered by COVID-19 restrictions.
The Bullitt Opioid Addiction Team (B.O.A.T) usually holds community events to give out First Aid kits including the antidote; however, organizer Jennifer "Punkiin" Stepp says the pandemic has forced her to disengage. She instead holds porch pick-ups, for now.
Eadens has a vision for what should happen next.
"We need to get back into more awareness of it. I don't know that it's gonna stop it. I think the laws need to get tougher on the people that are pushing the drugs, the ones that are pushing it into our community that are making profits off of it," he said.
He also wants more rehab for those suffering from addiction.
KORE, with the Pharmacists Association and health department, provides free Narcan to its community partners. They say requests for the overdose antidote have increased in 2020, and they're distributing more than ever before.