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Opioid overdoses have increased during pandemic

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Posted at 6:36 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 09:07:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS — May is Mental Health Awareness month and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are suffering with mental health issues.

Both adults and children are finding themselves dealing with the stress of mental health problems, but might not be sure where to turn for help.

"There are too many of us. It's really quite overwhelming and devastating," explained Justin Phillips, who lost her son, Aaron to a heroin overdose. "Too many families who have lost loved ones to an overdose."

No more than a year after Aaron first shared with his mother that he was struggling, he passed away.

At the time, Phillips said, she didn't know a lot. "I didn't understand. I did not know the swift and sudden death that can come from misusing opioids and heroin."

Since the pandemic began, Indiana has seen a 32% increase in overdose deaths. Phillips recognizes many people have suffered, due to a loss of income or support of some kind, it has taken a toll on people's mental health.

"But if you compound that with an existing mental wellness concern or substance abuse disorder, and lose those connections, you lose your ability to go to support groups, to in-person support, to in-person outpatient therapy, or otherwise our solution if we suffer from substance abuse disorders is chemical," she said.

Phillips explained that often, people's first introduction to opioids is from a legitimate pain prescription; adding that people are unaware how you can have surgical procedures without using opioids after.

"And, the reason we don't know is because we're not given those options because unfortunately, they're not reimbursable through insurance and Medicaid," Phillips said.

That's why she's pushing for the NOPAIN Act, which was recently reintroduced to Congress, would make non-opioid pain management options available through insurance coverage. Phillips said minimizing the exposure of these kinds of drugs will help prevent anyone from heading down a darker path.

"Just be aware. It can happen to any of us, none of us are exempt."

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