Overdose Deaths Have Skyrocketed in Chicago, and the Coronavirus Pandemic May Be Making It Worse

by Melissa Sanchez and Duaa Eldeib: For More Info, Go Here…

Opioid-related deaths in Cook County have doubled since this time last year, and similar increases are happening across the country. “If you’re alone, there’s nobody to give you the Narcan,” said one coroner.

More than twice as many people have died or are suspected to have died of opioid overdoses in the first five months of the year in Cook County, when compared with the same period last year, according to a ProPublica Illinois analysis of medical examiner’s office death records. There have been at least 924 confirmed or suspected overdose deaths so far in 2020; there were 461 at this time last year. And much like the coronavirus outbreak, the opioid epidemic has disproportionately affected African Americans on Chicago’s West and South Sides.

Statewide, opioid deaths also are outpacing 2019 numbers, largely due to the increase in Cook County.

The deadly surge comes at what was supposed to be a turning point for Illinois. A 2017 state action plan from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vowed to halt the “explosive growth” of opioid deaths and reduce the projected number of opioid-related deaths this year by a third.

Based on the number of overdose deaths so far in Cook County alone, it’s highly unlikely the state can meet that goal.

While the spike in deaths began several months before the first known case of the coronavirus appeared in Illinois, COVID-19 appears to be exacerbating the crisis.

“This is going to make it so much worse,” said Kathleen Kane-Willis, a researcher with the Chicago Urban League who has studied the opioid epidemic for more than a decade, adding that the true impact of the pandemic on drug overdoses likely won’t be known for some time.

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