June 16, 2020
Contact: Andree Swanson
Phone Number: (571) 362-5149
DEA launches WithYouSTL.com website
Addressing community needs due to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis
ST. LOUIS – Unintended consequences of social distancing and isolation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can include increased substance use, experimentation and even relapse for those in treatment and recovery. Two recent reports indicate that the opioid epidemic is still causing problems in the community both during the pandemic and last year:
- St. Louis County Department of Public Health reported a 13 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths in 2019. Unfortunately, deaths of Black males from opioid use jumped 47 percent compared to 2018. [Source: Sara Dayley, Director of Public Information & Communication, June 10, 2020]
- “One in three respondents (34 percent) report changes in treatment or recovery support services,” stated a survey on the effect of COVID-19 impact on individuals with substance use disorders reported by the Addiction Policy Forum June 9, 2020. [Source: https://additionpolicy.org/]
The Drug Enforcement Administration St. Louis Division, along with community partners, recognized the difficulty of finding substance abuse information both during and prior to the pandemic. That’s why DEA has launched a website that pulls together resources for St. Louis Metro residents.
WithYouSTL.com is a community-based resource website that provides information on everything from substance use prevention, treatment providers, and free naloxone distribution locations, as well as where to find food pantries and other help. The website also has information about the signs and symptoms of substance use disorder, tools to help parents talk to their kids about the dangers of substance misuse, and ways to safely secure medications during this pandemic.
The initiative was born during DEA-hosted calls with prevention and treatment providers during stay-at-home orders.
“We listened to prevention, treatment, and families on the front line of opioid crisis and heard how COVID-19 impacted those who suffer from substance use disorder, in particular the devastating health effects of the coronavirus and opioid use disorder among the African American community,” said Special Agent in Charge William Callahan, head of the DEA St. Louis Division covering Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois.
“We heard all these groups talk about how they were transforming for the times, but it was the surviving parents of an opioid overdose victim who told the group that when people are living through the nightmare of a loved one suffering from substance use disorder, they don’t know where to turn, and that the social isolation only makes matters worse,” Callahan added. “DEA leadership in Washington agreed with us that we needed to bring all these great community resources under one banner. The DEA St. Louis Division is one of few agencies in the region that crosses state and county lines, rivers and highways. We had the means to help our community, and that’s exactly what we did by creating WithYouSTL.com.”
The surviving parents on those calls were Ellis and Patti Fitzwalter, who founded H.E.A.L.: Stop Heroin, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of the danger of opioids after their son’s accidental heroin overdose death in 2014. The organization seeks to raise awareness and educate others about the dangerous of opiates. A link to their website and many other grassroots, local, state, and national drug prevention and treatment resources are featured on WithYouSTL.com.
Resources cover the bi-state area, including St. Clair and Madison counties, St. Louis and St. Louis County, and St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties. WithYouSTL.com is accessible on a computer or mobile device.