Western Wisconsin providers see increase in opioid overdoses

Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 6:46 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Opioid overdose deaths are climbing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 104,000 people died from such overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September 2021. That’s twice the number reported six years prior.

Eau Claire Police data shows 58 people overdosed due to opioids in Eau Claire County in 2021. That’s more than double the number four years prior.

Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor Marcy Hurlburt said there’s no shortage of people seeking help at the L.E. Phillips Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls.

“In the past we’ve had some slow times where we would have a lighter census, but we really have gone strong ever since COVID has started where we’ve been full with waiting lists,” she said.

Marshfield Clinic addiction specialist Paula Hensel said many people see the wave of overdose deaths as a “big city problem,” but that’s not reality.

“Those big city problems are happening right here in our very own communities,” she said.

She said fentanyl is showing up in patients’ drug tests, which is cause for concern.

“Fentanyl is incredibly dangerous because such a very tiny amount can lead to an unintentional overdose and death,” Hensel said.

Hurlburt said the prevalence of fentanyl and synthetic drugs mixed with opioids is a major difference from six years ago.

“It’s turned into more of the alternatives, the mixtures of opioids that are not controlled by the government,” she said. “They’re more controlled by whatever a random drug is mixing together.”

Hensel said the pandemic’s also played a role as it’s increased stress for everybody.

“Many things caused a lot of grief and isolation and substance abuse can be an outlet or a choice for a lot of people that is not healthy one,” she said.

She said the most important thing is someone seek help if they or a loved one is struggling with addiction.

People can reach the L.E. Phillips Libertas Treatment Center at (715) 723-5585.

They can reach Marshfield Clinic’s Family Health Centers at (844) 288-8324.

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