"It becomes very personal. It's not about static anymore," the coroner said.By Ross Guidotti

GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – In Westmoreland County, the number of overdose deaths is up. Officials say the county was making progress until the pandemic.

When it comes to Westmoreland County and the epidemic of overdose deaths, things were looking up. In 2017, 193 lives were lost as a result.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha told KDKA, “2019, we dropped again to 115. The beginning of 2020, the first quarter, we were still seeing numbers going down and then, bam, COVID hits.”

And Bacha says it’s hit hard.

“We still have some pending cases, but counting those pending, probable overdoses, we’re going to go back up to probably 121. That’s what we’re on pace for right now,” he says.

But as he’s done repeatedly in the past, Bacha stresses those aren’t numbers, they’re human beings.

“It becomes very personal. It’s not about static anymore,” he says.

Licensed professional counselor Christina Rife says it’s never a good time to be in a life and death battle with addiction but, “when it comes to getting sober and recovering, it’s change your people, places and things. Well, everything has changed right now.”

Rife adds, “In general, I think the biggest component would be isolation. It’s already a disease of isolation, hopelessness.”

What can be done? Rife says it depends on where the person is in their recovery journey, but both Rife and Bacha say one thing that can be done by those who love someone in the grips of addiction is simply be there.

For resources, visit the Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission’s website.