Berkeley County dealing with widespread substance abuse crisis stemming from pandemic

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — It may be the case across the entire state of West Virginia, but in the eastern panhandle region, the substance abuse epidemic is spiraling out of control.

Social isolation from the pandemic may have a lot to do with it. Support systems broke down for substance abusers. Many lost jobs and the supply of illicit drugs spiked. Many relapsed. Last year was the deadliest of the opioid epidemic.

“We have knocked on well over 200 doors in response to overdoses, and every month our numbers are increasing as far as the amount of overdoses we receive,” said Thomas C. Anderson with the Berkeley County Recovery Resource Center.

The group, Not One More WV, is mobilizing to prevent the widespread problem. Counselors at the Berkeley County Recovery Resource Center see things getting worse in the community.

“Honestly it’s become more of an epidemic here recently, and the types of drugs have changed,” said Adriana Villareal with the Resource Center. “It’s not like it used to be, you know, heroin and prescription pills. So now it’s more like synthetics and things like that.”

In Berkeley County last year, there were 69 COVID-related deaths and 106 fatal drug overdoses. Emergency services data show overdoses continue to rise.

“We’re trying to reach the survivors of the overdose and offer recovery resources to them,” said Anderson. “There are many pathways to recovery that we offer here in the State of West Virginia.”

The devastation to entire families is perhaps the toughest challenge.

“It’s a whole family problem, and then we have parents of the children, of the grown children and the small children we’ve come into contact with such as like 17 and 15 and things like that and we have to send them to treatment too. So it’s a family disease,” Villareal said.

While the focus now is recovery, the resource center hopes more can be done for prevention. And the quick response team is grateful for the support of the Berkeley County Council and the community.

The substance abuse prevention group, Not One More WV, is planning a rally on August 28 at 5 p.m. in Martinsburg’s War Memorial Park to raise community awareness of the crisis.

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