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HEALTH

'Our community is hurting': Cayuga County OD deaths, suicides rise in 2020

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A pedestrian walks along Genesee Street in a desolate section of Auburn during the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Both drug overdose deaths and suicides increased last year in Cayuga County, further highlighting the harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health.

County Coroner Dr. Adam Duckett told The Citizen there were 20 drug overdose deaths last year, and another eight that could be added to the total depending on the results of their toxicology reports.

That compares to 14 drug overdose deaths in 2019, 24 in 2018 and 24 in 2017, the height of the opioid epidemic in Cayuga County. Duckett has previously told The Citizen he believes one reason there weren't more overdose deaths last year is the rising popularity of synthetic drugs, commonly known as "molly." They're cheaper, harder to trace, and less likely to trigger overdoses, Duckett said.

Meanwhile, there were 12 suicides in Cayuga County last year, Duckett said. That compares to six in 2019, five in 2018 and six in 2017. The Auburn Police Department also reported a rise in suicide attempts in 2020. There were 232, compared to 190 in 2019 and 221 in 2018. And the department responded to 354 mental health problems last year, compared to 339 in 2019 and 309 in 2018.

The effects of the pandemic on mental health are many, said Duckett, who is also chief medical officer of East Hill Medical Center in Auburn and operates a private practice, Duckett Family Medicine.

The obvious effects include anxiety from the virus and the economic slowdown it has created, as well as depression from staying home and not seeing friends or family. But many people are also missing the care they need from doctors and other sources during the pandemic, Duckett said, especially if they lack the means for phone or video visits.

"These numbers are reflecting that our community is hurting," he said. "And COVID-19 is responsible for that."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and auburnpub.com since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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