(WTNH) – The number of deadly drug overdoses continues to climb year after year. In 2021 alone, Connecticut saw an 11 percent increase in deadly drug overdoses.

This isn’t happening overnight. It’s a trend we’ve been seeing for years now, but the pandemic coupled with new and emerging substances has deepened this crisis.

“We need to stop it before it happens,” said Tammy de la Cruz, President of Community Speaks Out.

Tammy de la Cruz knows firsthand the impact and devastation addiction has on families and the community. Her son, Joey, struggled with an addiction to Percocet.

“He spoke out at his local high school and talked about how quickly his addiction took over. He did that because we needed to change the way we were treating this,” de la Cruz said.

De la Cruz and her husband, Joe, founded Community Speaks Out, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing this crisis.

“What I want to make sure people know is that you do not have to be addicted to die of an overdose. One time can be your last time,” de la Cruz said.

This crisis has deepened with the number of fatal drug overdoses continuing to climb. In 2021, there were 1,535 confirmed fatal overdoses, which is up 11.4 percent from 2020 when there were 1,378 fatal overdoses.

This year, from January until the first week of March, there were 166 deaths, with 87 percent of those involving Fentanyl.

“Unfortunately, COVID has not been good for the opioid overdose epidemic. In many ways, it has fueled the epidemic,” said Dr. Melissa Weimer, Yale-New Haven Health. “It’s been happening in concurrence with huge contamination of elicit, or not prescribed, drug supply of Fentanyl. This has really happened over the last two years.”

That’s why there’s a push for more resources and support to be put in place.

“[New Haven] tragically lost 80 people to COVID in 2021. We lost 130 [people] to overdose deaths in 2021. These people are deserving of help and there is help available,” said Dr. Mehul Dalal, Community Services Administrator in New Haven.

If you or a loved one needs that help, reach out and take the first step.

“Don’t give up, and try to find help in the way that makes the most sense for the person going through it,” Dr. Dalal said.

A good place to start is by calling 211. That will direct you to services.

Here are additional resources available:

  • New Haven Syringe Exchange Program: Yale’s Community Health Care Van (CHCV), a mobile medical clinic, provides primary care services along with a variety of others. Services include free Naloxone kits, clean needles, substance use treatment, and mental health services. The van travels around New Haven, patients are seen free of charge and no appointment is required. Contact Rolo Jr. at (203) 823-0743 for their schedule or for Home Syringe Service Delivery &/or Disposal Pick Up. 
  • CT Harm Reduction Alliance: A mobile harm reduction syringe service provider; materials include safe sex kits, naloxone kits, fentanyl test strips, needle exchange, treatment, and support. Call the van to learn their schedule: (203) 935-5701
  • Community Mental Health Center (CMHC): The CMHC provides mental health, substance use, primary care & has a street outreach team. Located at 34 Park Street, New Haven CT 06519. Call for more information: (203) 974-7300 
  • Cornell Scott Hill Health Center (CHCV): Federally qualified health center, provides primary health care, behavioral health care, substance use treatment, walk/urgent care services throughout the greater New Haven area. Call (203) 503-3000 for an appointment and more information. 
  • CT Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR): Local recovery community center welcoming people seeking help and support from the disease of addiction: support groups, computer access, telephone support & social events. (860) 999-1310 located at 1435 Chapel Street New Haven, Open Monday – Friday 10AM-4PM. 
  • Mobile Addiction Treatment Team (MATT): Mobile Treatment Van, Start medication-assisted treatment here – no appointment necessary. Schedule varies, call or text (203) 494-5811 to learn more about their services. 
  • DMHAS Treatment Hotline: For 24/7 assistance accessing treatment for a substance use disorder, dial 1-800-563-4086. 
  • 2-1-1: General health and human service support dial 2-1-1 or visit: www.211ct.org