West Virginia’s opioid crisis is a story of personal tragedy. An individual becomes addicted to drugs and often their life spirals out of control. The addicted leave in their wake damaged families, friends and communities.
It’s important to put faces and names with these stories so they won’t seem so impersonal, and the media often do that. However, it’s also useful to have a way to quantify the extent of the problem, and a new website put together by the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the Office of Drug Control Policy does just that.
This dashboard provides a breakdown of the number of hospital emergency room visits as a result of overdoses. It includes information from 46 ERs provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Virginia Hospital Association.
Here’s a link to the site so you can peruse it yourself, but here are a couple data points that stand out to me:
The first is the sheer number of overdoses. There were 6,775 visits to West Virginia hospital emergency rooms in 2019. That’s 19 every day of the year.
Sixty one percent of those who end up at the ER because of an overdose are discharged. Seventeen percent are transferred to another hospital while just three percent are admitted. However, nearly one percent of the 6,775 ER visits in 2019 ended in death.
The most common age group for overdose ER visits is 30-39, but 1,001 of the trips to the hospital were by individuals19 years old or younger. The overdose patients are equally divided between men and women.
Kanawha County, the state’s largest, had 1,055 ER visits for overdoses last year, the most of any county. Cabell County, which has had a well-publicized battle with drug addiction, was down to 775 in 2019. Monongalia County had 663.
For whatever reason, if there is any, Tuesday had more overdoses than any other day, while Friday has the fewest, although the difference between the two is only slight. By the same token, the number of overdose trips to the ER was about the same each month of the year with a high of 616 in March and a low of 500 in February.
The dashboard also includes information on Emergency Medical Services responses for suspected overdoses. Again, you can break down the numbers by county, but the total number of responses in West Virginia in 2019 was 6,639.
West Virginia needs every tool possible to combat the drug crisis. This dashboard doesn’t solve it, but it does help quantify the extent of the problem.