Editor’s note: The story below has been corrected to show the time period in which the overdoses were reported at local hospitals. Those overdoses were reported over an 18-month time span. We regret the error. This story also clarifies that the 30% increase was in overdoses across the state.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Mercy Health Behavioral Institute is ramping up its inpatient services again. These services, which help people going through addiction or in need of therapy, came nearly to a halt when the pandemic hit.
COVID-19 made it really difficult for the institute to have inpatient meetings with their clients. For a while, they were only able to do phone and Zoom calls.
Now, the institute is welcoming people back — with some changes.
It’s limiting the group setting to six people instead of the traditional 12, while still offering help online for those who want that.
All of the proper coronavirus protocols will be followed, including temperature checks, mask requirements and plexiglass between chairs.
This department offers a lot of different services at its Youngstown and Warren locations. For example, it helps people fighting addiction and offers counseling and group therapy sessions.
In January and February, the program was seeing full classes and helping dozens of people, but when the coronavirus hit full swing, a lot of those services had to change.
Being completely online was a problem for the institute because all of the nonverbals someone can give off during those meetings weren’t being seen.
Coordinators in the programs are happy to bring people back in because of how tough the pandemic has been on some of their patients.
“Mental illness has really kind of peaked during this time,” Suzette Miller said. “There are a few factors that cause that to happen and one is social isolation. It’s hands down difficult for people who need that ability to connect with others, and the economic stress as well.”
When services went entirely virtual, the number of accidental overdoses rose significantly. The entire state of Ohio saw an overall 30% increase in overdoses across the state, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health.
Overdoses between January 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020:
St. Elizabeth in Youngstown – 395
St. Elizabeth in Boardman – 164
St. Joseph in Warren – 243
That’s a total of 802 overdoses between Youngstown and Warren during an 18-month period.
Coordinators with the Mercy Health program say COVID-19 is the main factor in the increase because people weren’t able to get the help they’re used to. Their main goal now is to help people fighting substance abuse and mental illness.
“We can help them get what they need, whether it’s a, ‘We really think you’re in trouble, we need you to come to the emergency room,’ or, ‘Outpatient would work for you. Let’s talk about what you’re willing or able to do,'” Miller said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, you can reach out to the Mercy Health program for help by calling 833-347-5544, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also find more information about it online.
If you’re ever in a crisis situation, you should always call 911 and go to the emergency department.