CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The pandemic has created new challenges in the fight against substance abuse. That has left outreach groups looking for new ways to help those who are struggling. According to the National Office of Drug Control Policy, West Virginia has seen a 56% increase in overdose deaths in the past year.

“A lot of that is tied to the pandemic and economics and job loss and isolation. We were all very isolated for a long period of time,” said Dr. Susan Bisset, President of the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute.

The pandemic has led to new challenges for the groups trying to help those struggling with addiction.

“One of the things people need when they are in recovery is connection with other people. That is something we’ve had to find some different ways to get during the pandemic,” said Shelia Moran with First Choice Services, a group that operates several helplines in West Virginia.

Moran said they’ve had more calls to their Help4WV line this year than ever before.

“Everyone knows that addiction is a major issue here. Overdoses, of course, are continuing to rise and the pandemic, of course, hasn’t helped that,” Moran said.

The West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute adapted making the Rex the RX educational outreach program and other resources available virtually.

“We really need to make sure that we are reaching out to the people that we work with, to our neighbors, to our family members to check on them to make sure they are ok,” Bisset said.

Both groups are working to provide free training and education about naloxone. You can take the training online. Information about both programs is available here and here.