Editor's note: Mental Health Musings (MHM) will focus on community resources throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing protests against police brutality.

More than 40 states, including New York, reported increases in opioid-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a brief by the American Medical Association.

What You Need To Know

  • The COVID-19 pandemic exasperated the opioid epidemic, including in WNY. As of Oct. 8, Erie County reports 105 confirmed opioid-related overdoses deaths with 126 suspected opioid-related overdoses deaths waiting for confirmation

  • To register for free, virtual naloxone training, visit www.erie.gov/opioidtrainings

  • Erie County operates a 24/7 addiction hotline at 716-831-7007

Three Western New York counties, Erie County, Niagara County and Chautauqua County, saw spikes as early as April due to an increase in fentanyl.

"We are concerned that this year the numbers of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses have increased, and we know that Narcan saves lives," said Gale Burstein, Erie County commissioner of health.

In 2019, the county lost 156 people to opioid overdose deaths.

As of October 8, there have been 105 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Erie County with 126 suspected opioid-related overdoses deaths waiting for confirmation. If all those deaths end up being confirmed, the county will have surpassed last year’s numbers with three months in the year.

Throughout the remainder of 2020, there will be a series of free, virtual trainings on recognizing the signs of opioid overdoses and how to use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose hosted by the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) and the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force.

"With these online trainings, we can focus on getting this crucial information out to a larger audience and get Narcan into the hands of those who need it," Burstein said.

Registration is required for the training events. For this month, there are trainings on October 15, 2020 (12:00 - 1:00 p.m.), October 22, 2020 (6:00 - 7:30 p.m.), October 24, 2020 (9:00 - 10:30 a.m.) and October 27, 2020 (1:00 - 2:00 p.m.).

Trainings will also be offered November 19, 2020 (6:00 - 7:30 p.m.), November 21, 2020 (9:00 - 10:30 a.m.), December 17, 2020 (6:00 - 7:30 p.m.) and December 19, 2020 (9:00 - 10:30 a.m.).

"These virtual events are supplementing what we are doing to distribute Narcan in our community," Cheryll Moore, director of the Opiate Epidemic Task Force, said.

In addition to the virtual trainings, Erie County operates a text for naloxone program and provides businesses with an emergency naloxone box.

To register for ECDOH Opioid Trainings, visit www.erie.gov/opioidtrainings.

The Text for Narcan program can be reached at 716-225-5473, and, to request an emergency naloxone box for your business, contact 716-858-7695.