Graham Kilmer

EMS Calls Show 54% Spike in Drug Overdoses, 80% Increase in Suicide Attempts

Milwaukee County experiencing a death toll beyond the disease itself.

By - May 7th, 2020 05:09 pm
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First responders in Milwaukee. Photo from Milwaukee County.

First responders in Milwaukee. Photo from Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County’s Emergency Medical Services Division has seen a drastic increase in calls for mental health concerns and drug overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls during March and April, and comparing them to calls during the same months in 2019, a startling picture emerges.

There has been a 70 percent increase in EMS responses to mental health concerns, a 54 percent increase in responses to drug overdoses and a “very concerning” 80 percent increase in responses to suicide attempts, said Dr. Ben Weston, director of Medical Services for Milwaukee County.

“These reasons for patients seeking help… represent, I think, the weight that COVID-19 places on our community,” Weston said.

Suffering is a constant during the pandemic, and it is hardly out of sight. “We see the struggle with a person dying from COVID-19 on a ventilator in a hospital, where no visitors are allowed. We see the struggle with the mother of three who’s furloughed from work and can’t pay her rent,” said Weston

But these EMS calls, 1,884 of them, “those individuals have a struggle that is often not seen.”

“The hard work of social distancing has paid off,” Weston said, as officials are beginning to see a slowdown in new COVID-19 cases. “And we as a community, I think,  are nearing a time where we can gradually pull back staying at home.

There will be an end to COVID-19. “It won’t be a week. It won’t be next month,” Weston said. “But it will come.”

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