Overdose cases on the rise in Niagara County during COVID-19

Posted at 4:22 PM, Apr 09, 2020

NIAGARA COUNTY (WKBW) — Niagara County officials say overdose cases in the county are on the rise compared to the same time period in 2019.

From the start of 2020 to April 6 the number of overdoses cases dispatched by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office has increased by 35 percent compared to the same time period in 2019.

Officials believe the COVID-19 outbreak is having an impact on several factors that have caused this increase.

"A number of factors could be contributing to this rise, including the adjustment of methadone clinic hours, decreased availability of methadone or other synthetic treatments for opioid abuse, a heightened sense of anxiety and job loss," a release from the sheriff's office states.

The sheriff's office is asking family and friends to be observant of any signs of a known substance abuser returning to a pattern of abuse.

"We need to keep an eye on our loved ones, friends and neighbors during this pandemic," said Sheriff Filicetti. "Please watch out for signs of obvious drug use or depression that could contribute to an overdose.”

Some of those signs are:

  • Person is not responsive
  • Fingertips or lips turn blue or gray
  • Breathing is slow, shallow or has stopped
  • Person is gurgling or making snoring noises

The NYS Good Samaritan Law protects any individual, who in good faith seeks care for themselves or someone else, from being charged or prosecuted for a drug or alcohol related offense, although there are some exceptions.

"Fear and anxiety, as well as loneliness and isolation are frequent triggers for alcohol or other drug use," said Laura Kelemen, Director of the Niagara County Department of Mental Health. "If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use at this time, know that you are not alone. There is help, there is hope."

Officials are issuing the reminder that treatment providers remain open although the programs and services are being delivered via phone or video conference.

If you or someone you know needs help you are urged to call the 24/7 Niagara County Crisis Services Hotline at (716) 285-3515.