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CDC Reports Record Number Of Overdose Deaths Amid Pandemic With Nearly 93,000 Lives Lost

CBS New York
By Jenna DeAngelis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a record number of overdose deaths in the midst of the pandemic, nearly 93,000 people.

It’s an issue hitting our area hard, especially New York City.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis spoke to Queens resident Andrew DeSousa, who has experienced it firsthand.

“Between the drugs and the alcohol, then there’s the insomnia that goes along with it, the behaviors… It’s just no good,” he said.

DeSousa has been struggling with addiction since 2012, pinpointing the exact date he knew he needed help.

“March 22, I was at my lowest point I’d say,” he said.

It was then he made the choice to come to Odyssey House, which provides treatment services from counseling to work support.

“It’s been fantastic. I got my sleep back. I work out every day. I’m eating very healthy. I’ve even gotten vaccinated,” DeSousa said.

Jeremy King is vice president of residential treatment services.

“We provide them with a place to stay, we provide them with counseling both group and individual counseling, we provide them with coordination of care, but we also provide them with work support, we provide them with training, we get them into GED classes, and we really take a whole person approach for individuals coming in,” he said. “We provide medical services, dental services, mental health services so a real sort of whole-person approach… We’re here to support you, we’re here to help and we are safe.”

He says the pandemic exacerbated a longstanding issue only getting worse.

“People are more reluctant to come into drug treatment programs because of fear of COVID-19, and so that’s a big concern for us,” he said.

It’s a record number, but special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan says sadly, not surprising.

“In 2019, we started to see overdoses increase, and we are seeing a surge in fentanyl coming into New York City, and New York City is the gateway for drug trafficking throughout the United States,” she said.

She says fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and it’s now being found mixed in other drugs such as cocaine.

“We are also seeing fentanyl pressed into counterfeit pills looking like oxycodone and being sold on the street, and they’re coming in now, already pressed into pills, from Mexico,” Brennan said.

CDC data showed New York City with a 36% increase in overdose deaths. New York state is about the same.

The prosecutor says working closely with the NYPD and DEA, they’re seizing more drugs than ever before, but now that the pandemic is behind us, it’s crucial to refocus more resources into this epidemic.

“Our loved ones are much safer in drug treatment programs than they are outside,” King said.

“I think it was the best decision to come here,” DeSousa said.

He’s hoping others will do the same.

According to CDC data, New York has the highest increase in overdose deaths in the Tri-State Area.

New Jersey had a slight increase and Connecticut was over 12%.

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