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Portage overdose deaths increased by 33% in 2020

Overdose deaths rose by 33% in Portage County, from 33 deaths in 2019 to 44 deaths from 2020. Nationally, overdoses rose by 29%.

“The pandemic created many additional stressors and the isolation people experienced was devastating,” stated John Garrity, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. “We are saddened by this news and concerned as we see the trend continuing into this year.”

Most of the people who died had fentanyl in their system along with other drugs such as methamphetamines or cocaine.

The Board is involved in several initiatives to prevent a person from overdosing. The Board received a donation of fentanyl test strips to distribute to the community. The strips can be used to detect fentanyl and, in some cases, fentanyl analogues, which are commonly found in the drug supply — alone and mixed with other illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Individuals using a drug may have no idea that a powerful synthetic opioid is present. “This will hopefully build some bridges to connect people to treatment and ultimately save lives,” said Garrity.

Naloxone is a medication that rapidly reverses an overdose. It is available for residents along with overdose education through Project DAWN. Appointments are necessary. Call Townhall II’s business line at 330-678-3006.

Medication-assisted treatment is a proven, evidence-based treatment which uses medications along with counseling to help people recover from opioid use disorder

Treatment is available here in Portage County with detoxification, residential treatment, counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and recovery housing services from our Board-funded providers – Townhall II, Family & Community Services, and Coleman Professional Services – as well as other local organizations. If you need help, contact the Addiction Helpline at Townhall II at 330-678-3006.


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