AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — For two years, health officials in Cayuga County have been taking part in the HEALing Communities Study, tracking opioid overdoses in real-time. The national study is now sparking change, but the problem continues to grow.

“When COVID started in March and in April, we saw an uptick in overdoses and also in fatalities,” said Monika Salvage, Project Director of the HEALing Communities Study.

It’s a problem everywhere. But Cayuga County was selected for the national study because of its higher-than-average overdose rates. And the pandemic hasn’t helped.

In 2019, nine people died of an opioid overdose. In 2020, that number more than doubled to 21 deaths. So far in 2021, eight people have died.

“It just shows that it’s not getting any better,” Salvage said.

One of the things the study has allowed health officials to do is go into neighborhoods and hand out resources, including Narcan spray. They hand out the kits for free and teach people how to use it in a matter of minutes.

“It comes with two vials, both 4 mg and all you need to do when you suspect that someone is overdosing on any substance really, because you never know if opioids are involved or not, to take this out of the package, and use it like a nasal spray.” Salvage said. “And then wait two or three minutes to see if something happens, if the person comes to. Meantime, call 911 and if the person doesn’t come to within two to three minutes, use the second dose.”

They’ve handed out more than 800 kits over the last year and they are reaching rural areas they’ve never touched before. Data shows more bystanders are stepping in, saving nearly 50 lives so far.

The main goal of the study is to make sure the whole community is on the same page so if someone reaches out for help, they will get it that day.

“Because if somebody with opioid use disorder reaches out for help or asks for help, you have a very small window where you can make this happen,” Salvage said.

For free Narcan spray and training for Cayuga County residents, click here.

For those struggling with opioid use disorder, here are a few resources, per Monika Salvage:

Nick’s Ride 4 Friends: 315-246-6485. They can help them navigate the services that are available.

Cayuga County Mental Health Center: 315-253-0341. The Family Access to Services Team works with families and children who are struggling. That same number goes to Mobile Crisis evenings, weekends, and on holidays and mental health professionals can assist callers. Mobile Crisis serves a 5-county region.

Helio Health has a 24/7 Regional Open Access Center for Addiction in Syracuse. They serve several counties and people can call 315-471-1564.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.