LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) — According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one million people have died since 1999 from drug overdoses.
In 2023, that number continues to rise across the nation.
People have been battling drug addictions since before the first wave of the opioid crisis in the mid-90s. People can turn to drugs for many reasons, which can result in an overdose and even death.
“You don’t see people trying to get addicted but we see a lot of people who have mental health crisis who are unmedicated, undermedicated, underserved and unable to access services that are needed to help with their mental health,” La Crosse County Health Department Health Educator Laura Runchey said. “So, a lot of the times we see people self-medicating.”
She said people had hoped that after the pandemic, the yearly overdose trend would start to decline. It hasn’t.
The CDC reported that this year has already seen an increase from 2022’s 110,394 deaths to 111,355.
La Crosse County has yet to surpass 2022’s 38 overdose deaths.
“I’m not surprised that these numbers have not dramatically gone down,” Gundersen Health System’s Emergency Medical Physician Dr, Chris Eberlein said. “When someone starts their addiction, the evolution of that ends up being usually about 3-5 years – is what I’ve read before you actually see someone have a death from this. Sometimes it’s obviously much sooner.”
Both healthcare professionals applaud the efforts done at the local level to provide resources to those living with addiction but said there is more work to be done across the nation.
“We definitely need to combat our mental health crisis. So, increasing access, I think is huge. Increasing access to behavioral health, medication assistance and whatever’s necessary for that,” Runchey said. “I think that is huge.”
She said helping people starts with access to food, shelter and stable jobs.
For more information on resources, click here.
Have a story idea? Let us know here
Watch more on WXOW wherever you are
There are plenty of ways to get the latest content from WXOW. You can find us on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and other smart TV platforms so you can watch us anytime! Enjoy livestreaming newscasts or replays of our latest news along with some of our signature content such as the Jefferson Awards plus the latest weather and local sports.
Find WXOW on Roku here or by searching for WXOW in the Roku Channel Store.
Find WXOW for Fire TV here or searching for WXOW in the Amazon App Store.
Add the WXOW app for Apple TV through the Apple App Store.
Use this link to find out more about all the WXOW apps available.