WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – According to the latest government data, overdose deaths are rising. The CDC released new data stating there were more than 93,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020 alone.
This brings a nearly 30% increase from overdose deaths in 2019. Estimated deaths from opioids jumped from nearly 51,000 in 20-19 to roughly 70,000 last year.
Safe Streets Wichita is working to curb the number of overdoses from substance use.
“It’s here. It’s prevalent. It’s happening. We can no longer put our heads in the sand and say that’s somewhere else it’s not happening to us,” said Jan Chandler, community mobilizer for the coalition.
Chandler says the pandemic did not help the situation.
“Loss of jobs, loss of family members, some might have gotten sick with the COVID-19, and they have been turning to drugs, just to be able to cope.”
Safe Streets is working to reduce the stigma surrounding users and offer harm reduction strategies.
“For instance, if you had a person that uses intravenously, one of the harm reduction strategies that could be used is that to provide that person with a clean needle or syringe to eliminate different diseases,” Chandler said.
The coalition is also focusing on youth.
“If we can prevent a person from early use of a drug or alcohol, that’s a good thing because the younger they use, the more apt they are to become addicted,” she said.
On Thursday, July 22, the group is hosting a virtual town hall to inform the community and share ways to curb overdoses.
“Take the blinders off our eyes and open our ears up to the cry of the community – things are going on,” Chandler said. “If you see people that are acting different than what they normally act, you know, talk to them, see what’s going on, ask them questions, just be more alert.”