WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Substance abuse in the North Country has been an ongoing issue for decades. But as the COVID-19 pandemic created historical stressors, drug abuse incidents skyrocketed.

In Jefferson County alone, there were 260 drug overdoses that required medical care. Sadly, 34 of which claimed the lives of local residents.

According to Alliance For Better Community’s Drug Free Community Project Director Anita Seefried-Brown, this death rate is the highest Jefferson County has seen in 20 years.

“In talking with many individuals, they felt really alone. They felt hopeless. That felt helpless. That felt like there was nowhere to turn and people used substances. Many of which were adulterated with fentanyl,” shared Seefried-Brown. “And unfortunately, many of those individuals died. That is a tremendous number and it doesn’t even begin to explain the sadness and the loneliness and the desperation that people have felt.”

To combat this and help provide support, the Alliance for Better Communities has published the 2021 Prescription Drug and Street-Level Opioid Survey. The Survey will aim to gain data which will eventually help entities in the county receive local, state and federal funding.

Seefried-Brown added, “this survey really is the beginning point of gathering data that is absolutely vital to position ourselves for federal as well as state grant funding. All of the data gathered through the Prescription Drug and Street Level Opioid Survey will be shared with entities in Jefferson County.”

All county residents are urged to participate. The online survey can be found on ABC50’s website or by scanning the QR code below:

The Alliance for Better Communities is hoping to receive one thousand submissions. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and its open to all residents 18 years of age or older.