NPR – When Latoya Jenkins talks about her mom, she likes to focus on happy memories like the games she used to play with her kids.
“She used to buy two bottles of dish soap,” Jenkins said. “One bottle was for the dishes. The other bottle was for rainy days. She would take us outside and we would make bubbles.”
Jenkins, who lives in upstate New York, says her mom, Sonya Hughey, had a hard life, first using crack cocaine when she was a teenager.
The loneliness and isolation of the pandemic made Hughey’s substance use disorder worse. She was using methamphetamines and in November she was arrested.
According to Jenkins, her mother tried to get help. “She asked, you know? Can I get the rehab? I have a drug problem. They said no. Rehab wasn’t an option for her.”
In December, Hughey who was 48 years old used methamphetamines contaminated with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. “We got a phone call from my mom’s boyfriend that he found her dead,” Jenkins said.
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fatal drug overdoses nationwide have surged roughly 20% during the pandemic, killing more than 83,000 people in 2020.
A deadly collision of race, addiction and COVID-19
“It wasn’t until we started looking at the level of race and ethnicity that we realized Black and brown communities are being disproportionately affected,” said Dr. Utsha Khatri, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.
Khatri’s team analyzed drug overdose data collected in Philadelphia during the pandemic. They found overdose deaths surged more than 50% among the city’s Black residents.
Among whites, by contrast, drug overdose fatalities remained flat and in some months even declined.
“COVID really just acted as salt in the wounds of health and social inequities, perpetuated by structural racism both in Philadelphia and across the country,” Khatri said … Click source below to read more.
More suicides by Black Cook County residents in 2020 than in any year in over a decade
By Lakeidra Chavis | The Trace Feb 19, 2021, 5:45am CST
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES – Ninety-seven Black Cook County residents died by suicide in 2020 — the highest total for a single year in more than a decade.
The alarming rise came as government officials fell short on pledges to improve suicide-prevention efforts that were made after The Trace and the Chicago Sun-Times reported last July on the rising number of deaths.
In response, Chicago city health officials said they would seek proposals from private agencies to create and implement a suicide-prevention plan. And county officials said they were working on a similar plan and would have it by year’s end.
But neither the city nor the county came through on those promises.
The increase in the number of suicides among Black Cook County residents last year began even before the coronavirus pandemic upended people’s lives. An analysis of the deaths based on Cook County medical examiner’s office data shows that:
- Most of those who died by suicide were men.
- The median age was 34.
- About four in 10 of the deaths involved a gun. Less than a quarter were caused by hanging.
- The deaths touched nearly every corner of the city and suburbs, with clusters of suicides in parts of the West Side and cutting through community areas from Auburn Park to South Shore on the South Side — including areas facing high levels of violence and drug overdoses that were also disproportionately affected by the first wave of the pandemic.
- Among the deaths: a woman in her 60s in Chinatown. A 34-year-old man in Austin. And a 16-year-old boy whose death in Riverdale came just days before Christmas.
- The number of deaths in 2020 compares to 56 in 2019 — a nine-year low. Since 2010, the average number until 2020 had been 65 a year … Read more.