There have been substantial increases in opioid overdoses since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said.
EMS responses for opioid overdose increased by 33 percent from April to May of this year, according to MDHHS statistics.
Additionally, EMS responses for opioid overdoses from April through June 2020 were 26 percent higher than the same period in 2019.
Responses increased for all regions and nearly all demographic groups, except residents aged 65 years and older.
“Opioid overdoses kill far too many Michiganders, and it’s a double tragedy that the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis,” said Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief deputy for health and chief medical executive, in a press release. “If you or someone you love has an opioid use disorder, please take steps to prevent overdose deaths – like carrying naloxone and never using alone.”
While all racial groups demonstrated increases in opioid overdoses and transport refusals during the pandemic, preliminary data suggests white residents experienced the greatest increases during this period, MDHHS said.
Despite this finding, MDHHS said longstanding racial disparities continue to impact how black residents experience opioid overdoses, resulting in a far higher opioid overdose rate. The average monthly rate of EMS responses for opioid overdoses among black residents was 219.8 per 100,000 residents, as compared to 123.4 among white residents between April and June.
After an initial drop in April, ED visits for opioid overdoses increased in May and June to pre-pandemic levels despite EDs seeing fewer visits overall in Michigan during the pandemic.
MDHHS continues to use every available tool to combat the opioid epidemic during this challenging time, including ensuring continued access to Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) and increasing access to naloxone, the medication used to treat overdoses, for individuals and organizations.