Cities and counties across our country, including in the Lone Star State, are taking necessary precautions, locking down and ordering people to quarantine as COVID numbers rise. In Texas, we have already lost more than 23,000 people to COVID, but there is another crisis taking lives in our community made even worse by the COVID pandemic — addiction.
Drug-related deaths have risen in 2020 in states across the country. Texas has fared better than some states, but opioid use is still the primary driver of overdose deaths in Texas. Over half of all drug overdose deaths are attributable to opioids according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. According to data collected by the New York Times, drug-related deaths in Texas is up 18 percent since 2019. These numbers are expected to rise as people struggling with addiction face challenges of isolation, loss of connection to normalcy, friends and family and even their livelihoods, leading into the holiday season.
To help address this crisis, Partnership to End Addiction, a national nonprofit that engages and helps families impacted by addiction, with support from Facebook, is using technology to connect families and communities in the Houston area with the support and information they need to take vital first steps toward recovery. Partnership to End Addiction is able to help families impacted by addiction to identify quality treatment resources in their community. And through Crisis Support Over Facebook Messenger, Facebook connects people to support from the Partnership’s trained and caring bilingual addiction specialists. The support is free and confidential and helps parents and caregivers find answers for themselves and their child.
The addiction epidemic in Texas has been going on for far too many years, which is why local communities need help and support to stop the stigma that holds so many people back from getting help. Last holiday, we focused on helping break down the stigma of addiction with the Stop Opioid Silence public awareness campaign that reached 70 million people via Facebook and Instagram.
This year, our focus is on connecting people to the information they need to get help with the Start with Connection campaign. The isolation of COVID-19, coupled with the holidays, makes connecting using Facebook and Instagram even more important.
This holiday season, we encourage everyone to reach out to those who are alone. We know asking for help is a critical step in overcoming addiction. This is the heart of Partnership to End Addiction’s work, connecting people struggling with addiction to personalized support. That is why we are working closely with Facebook to connect people with the help they need, wherever they are.
As we prepare to celebrate the holiday season, Texans can connect with those who need our support and encouragement. Visit www.drugfree.org/get-support-now/ to learn more or get help.
This column was written by Marcia Lee Taylor of the Partnership to End Addiction and Facebook’s Will Castleberry.