John Auerbach, president and CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, says efforts in Iowa to cut prescription opioid abuse must be working along with other prevention methods. Auerbach says, “In Iowa, there was about a five-percent reduction in overall deaths from the combination of alcohol, drugs and suicide during 2018, compared to 2017.”
While the number of deaths in Iowa dropped overall, some individual areas saw gradual increases, much like the rest of the country. “There were a few areas of concern in Iowa,” Auerbach says. “Suicides were up two-percent and we also saw an increase of four-percent in deaths from methamphetamines and other psychostimulants.”
The pandemic we’re enduring now has the potential to significantly worsen those trends, as he says major disasters often lead to an increase in mental health and substance use disorders. “With COVID-19, there is the trauma associated with the 92,000 deaths already and deaths continue to increase every day,” Auerbach says, “as well as with the economic and social impact of the pandemic.”
Given the increase in social isolation and the unprecedented loss of jobs and income, his organization advocates expanding efforts to address stress, finding more ways to help people cope with crisis and to prevent more despair and deaths. “We need to work on access to care,” Auerbach says. “We know that if you have health insurance and if your care provider includes ready access to behavioral health services, you’re much less likely to die from one of these causes.”
Researchers also expect to see a rise in cases of domestic violence and child abuse during the pandemic. See the full report at the website of Trust for America’s Health.