Vet Voices

The forgotten pandemic grows stronger by the day in West Virginia

Ohio County

Coming out of a global virus, in West Virginia another monster grew while left alone in the dark.

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — A trend down is something officials are praying for. It’s no longer just COVID-19, and as we see, it never was. There’s been another battle taking countless lives in West Virginia.

Is the Opioid Epidemic the worst it’s ever been? 

I don’t know if it’s the worst. You have a dramatic increase of problems within the community.

Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department

“I have good news and bad news,” said Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger. “The bad news is we’re trending higher again this year through the first six months by about 16 percent as far as total overdoses. The good news is that the second quarter of this year, we’re actually starting to trend down.”

With limited staff, the Health Department drew back waging the war on opioids as COVID-19 ran rampant.  

“We did scale back our effort because our effort had to be to get to this point,” said Gamble.

And it’s hard to say how dramatic the repercussions are as the opioid epidemic was left unattended for a year, but Wheeling’s Chief of Police doesn’t think the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced much of the opioid trends.  

“No, I think it’s due to in part a large seizure of fentanyl the Wheeling Police Department made with the Ohio Valley Drug Taskforce.” 

Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, Wheeling Police

The Health Department says it will take billions of dollars to ever remove this monster that’s captured many of our loved ones. And Chief Schwertfeger can’t help but think it’s a revolving door. 

We’re not just seeing opiates anymore, but mixtures of harder substances.

“We’re seeing these cocktails that cause significant problems. Our overdose deaths are trending up. We track individuals that have multiple overdoses, and we have several who have as many as five overdoses this calendar year.” 

Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, Wheeling Police

The Police Department has filed abatements for over 20 houses in Wheeling. And the Health Department will once again restart the training and distribution of Narcan for the general public. 

“Narcan is probably the single largest tool we have to prevent someone from dying as a result of the opioid,” added Gamble.

There’s no locking this revolving door. It can be weeks without overdoses and then police will see a spike. It’s many times a new shipment of fentanyl to the area. 

Healing starts with attention, and officials hope with enough attention, we’ll see the tides shift. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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