PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The number of people dying from overdoses surged during the pandemic, reaching the highest number ever recorded in the U.S. according to a report the federal government released Wednesday.
The Alano Club of Portland, the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit recovery services center says a lack of in-person services and therapy is a huge factor in the spike in overdose deaths.
Director of Development Kasey Anderson says when the pandemic hit, crucial services for those in recovery changed dramatically.
"Our resources are best delivered in person," Anderson said. "That is where people find a recovery community, that's where people find support, that's where people find respite from the isolation."
In March 2020 the Alano Club of Portland shut down.
Crucial services like support groups, peer mentorships, workshops and cultural events stopped, and Anderson says the center had to pivot quickly.
"How do we get people the care they need, the support they need, the services they need when we can't see them, when we can't all be together in one place," Anderson said.
He says the organization transitioned to virtual services to make sure people were still getting help, but he understands the lack of in-person interaction made it difficult for many in recovery across the country.
According to a report from the federal government, 93,000 people nationwide died from overdoses during the pandemic.
It's the highest number ever recorded and is nearly a 30 percent spike compared to the previous year.
Here locally, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) says overdose deaths were up nearly 70 percent from spring 2019 to spring 2020.
"It's heartbreaking, I mean it's heartbreaking because I think everybody felt a helplessness -- anybody who worked in the mental health and behavioral industry knew what the result was going to be, knew what it was going to be like for people to be isolated from their community, isolated from their care providers," Anderson said.
While the recovery center is now back open, Anderson says new ways of providing services that were born out of the pandemic, will continue in an effort to help those in recovery.
"There are some people who are not comfortable or who are unable to return to in-person care, and so just because the order is lifted doesn't mean ok great you know all those services that we were able to provide are done," Anderson said. "That's not the case. We now need to be able to continue to balance providing equitable care to the communities who need it with allowing people to return to in-person group meetings."
FOX 12 also spoke with Oregon Recovers Director Mike Marshall on this issue.
He says these national numbers don't give the entire picture and don't factor in deaths related to alcohol abuse.
Marshall also said as addiction soared through the pandemic, there weren't any increased prevention efforts to help people.