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Increase of drug overdoses impacts hospitals

Munson Healthcare

Hospitals have seen an increase in emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

According to data released from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, emergency services saw a 26 percent increase in opioid overdoses between April and June of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Chief Medical Officer at Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital Dr. Jim Whelen said the hospital has seen close to a 25 percent uptick, similar to the state wide number. 

He said the increase of overdose patients adds to the stress levels on staff.

“The ER staff and hospital staff have been traumatized by the coronavirus and they have an increase in things that take a lot of emotional energy, like dealing with an overdose. That is hard on staff.”

Whelan said many patients brought to the hospital for overdose are generally young and healthy.

“To have them in a life or death situation is emotionally harder on the providers because they spend everyday trying to save everyone that comes in there, but they don't necessary go to work expecting to have 20 year olds or teens or 30 year olds as the ones they’re trying so hard to save,” he said. 

Whelan said the pandemic has been the biggest stressor on the community in the last 25 years, which he said could be a factor to why overdoses have increased. 

“When one of your coping mechanisms for the stresses in your life is substance use, or was, if you're a person in recovery,” he said. “When you are running out of coping mechanisms that makes you more susceptible to using.”