CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — With all the attention placed on the COVID-19 pandemic these past 17 months, the nation’s other health crisis – the opioid epidemic – has received relatively little coverage. But that’s about to change.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 93,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, compared to 72,000 the year before. That’s a 30% increase. West Virginia logged more than 1,200 deaths, a 45% increase. Experts say the two health crises are related

“What the Coronavirus pandemic did was it isolated all of these people. It exacerbated their mental health problems, the problems that may have driven them to drugs to start out with,” said John Law, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

An attorney suing big pharma companies on behalf of dozens of West Virginia cities and counties says there must be consequences.

“This is a crisis. That thousands of people are dying, and that we need the money, sooner than later. And we need comprehensive drug treatment facilities in West Virginia,” said Rusty Webb, an attorney representing several West Virginia cities and counties.

But critics say law enforcement is also needed, and that lax immigration laws are bringing in more illegal drugs, like synthetic heroin.

“Fentanyl has risen through the roof. The supply into the United States is going up at an unbelievable rate, and we think that’s causing a lot of the new deaths,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R) West Virginia.

The states with the highest overdose death rates are Louisiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.

“West Virginia’s Attorney General says he may join with other states is proposing a lawsuit against the Biden Administration, trying to get it to provide tougher drug and immigration enforcement at the borders,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.