Sauk County WisHope program pairs recovery coaches, EMS to step in after drug overdoses

MADISON, Wis. – Addiction is a lonely road already. COVID-19 only drove friends and family farther away.

“The pandemic really was isolating for a lot of people,” said Sara Jesse, a community health strategist with the Sauk County Public Health Department.

The number of drug overdose deaths in the county rose from 13 in 2019 to 21 in 2020.

“We are so concerned about the spike of overdoses in our community during the pandemic,” Jesse said, adding that the numbers represent both accidental and purposeful overdoses. “I can tell you, Sauk County typically sees about 14 overdose deaths per year, which is already astronomically high given our population.”

“Isolation, loneliness, not being able to work and meet their needs, those are huge triggering factors for people to relapse and use,” said Ryan Ramnarace, a peer recovery coach.