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• Overdose deaths in West Virginia have increased by about 45% between calendar year 2019 and calendar year 2020, according to state data.
• Preliminary data covering a portion of 2021 shows that the increase has recently accelerated further.
Drug overdoses have become a major concern in West Virginia in recent years. Is the number continuing to grow? In a tweet sent on Aug. 10, Rep. David McKinley said it is.
"Overdose deaths in WV are up 45% from the prior year," McKinley tweeted. "We need to do more to stop these drugs from entering the country and we need to get tough on the criminals that are trafficking them in our communities."
In August 2020, PolitiFact West Virginia found that the number of overdoses early in the coronavirus pandemic had spiked. But now data is available for all of 2020, so we looked at the most up-to-date numbers.
We found that McKinley’s statement was well supported.
McKinley’s office sent us data compiled by the West Virginia Health Statistics Center and published by Mountain State Spotlight, an investigative news website.
According to this data, there were 1,275 overdose deaths in 2020, compared to 878 deaths for 2019. That’s an increase of 397, or 45.2%, between the two most recent calendar years.
Other data, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that the pace of overdoses may have continued to increase in 2021.
Between February 2020 and February 2021, the most recent period for which the CDC data is available, the number of cumulative overdose deaths in West Virginia in the previous 12-month period rose from 889 to 1,395. That’s an increase of 506, or almost 57%.
The trend is not new: The number of overdoses in West Virginia has been rising since at least 2015. The same CDC data shows that in the 12-month period ending in February 2015, there were 653 overdose deaths in the state. So between 2015 and 2021, the number of overdoses in West Virginia rose by 114%.
McKinley said, "Overdose deaths in WV are up 45% from the prior year."
That figure is correct if you compare calendar year 2019 to calendar 2020. Preliminary data covering a portion of 2021 shows that the increase has accelerated in 2021.
We rate the statement True.
David McKinley, tweet, Aug. 10, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts," updated Sept. 5, 2021
Mountain State Spotlight, "West Virginia overdose deaths set new record amid pandemic," April 21, 2021
PolitiFact, "Have overdoses in W.Va. increased 50% during the pandemic?" Aug. 19, 2020
Email interview with Jessica Holstein, assistant director of communications at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Sept. 1-3, 2021
Email interview with Allie Hildebrand, legislative assistant to David McKinley, Sept. 1, 2, and 7, 2021
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