WATERTOWN — Following 2020, Jefferson County’s deadliest year in recent memory in terms of overdose fatalities, the Alliance for Better Communities has released a new survey to obtain drug use data.
While substance abuse has been an ongoing issue in the area for decades, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, instances of drug abuse rose considerably. Last year ended with 34 confirmed overdose fatalities in Jefferson County — the highest in 20 years.
“We do know, in directly speaking with individuals, that COVID had a tremendously destructive impact on people suffering from substance use disorders,” Alliance for Better Community’s Drug Free Community Project Director Anita K. Seefried-Brown said. “What we heard repeated over and over was that people felt lonely, they felt hopeless, they felt like nobody cared.”
According to Mrs. Seefried-Brown, the spikes of overdoses both fatal and non-fatal also align with enhanced unemployment checks, as well as stimulus checks.
The alliance hopes to have sufficient survey submissions within the next two months, with a goal of 1,000 submissions. Mrs. Seefried-Brown said if by the end of the next few months, submissions haven’t gotten to at least 500, the 2021 Prescription Drug and Street-Level Opioid Survey will remain open.
“The goal, really, is to get as many submissions as possible for the purpose of situating ourselves for appropriate programming and intervention,” she said, “and also, all data sets are going to be shared with any and all agencies that either request it or agencies with whom we already work in tandem.”
Having fresh data will help the alliance, as well as all partner agencies that are applying for funding, positions their agencies to receive funding, Mrs. Seefried-Brown said.
The more information gathered, the better each entity’s chances are of securing funding, which then will improve the service delivery to individuals suffering from substance use disorders.
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and it’s open to all residents 18 years of age or older, all of whom are encouraged to participate. The online survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/TNPKZ8M.