NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's meant to lift a financial burden faced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one organization is concerned the latest round of stimulus checks could create a spike in local drug overdoses.
"When you give them $600 they're going to really take it to the limit and that really will raise your chances of losing your life," said Thomas Gooch, the Prevention Director for Street Works- an HIV advocacy center. Among its services Street Works runs a certified needle exchange program. "We provide clean syringes for individuals who use the syringes. We also dispose used syringes. We provide treatment referrals to where we try to get people into alcohol and drug treatment to help them out."
Gooch said Nashville drugs that were once hard to get are now cheaper and easier to find. "At one point in time, it was so difficult to get heroin. Now heroin is the cheapest drug to use."
But equipped with new stimulus checks in people's pockets, he worries things are about to get worse.
"What we found out was that the overdose rate spiked from the last stimulus checks and what we're trying to do is be ready. We're trying to provide Narcan for individuals, put it in the hands of every individual who comes to get clean syringes and any other kind of supplies that we provide."
Gooch is all too familiar with addiction- the mother of his child died from an overdose on Saturday.
"I'm in recovery myself so that's why I do the work that I do and that's why I'm on this ground running because I know what addiction will do to people," said Gooch.
Gooch said while information is the best form of prevention, choosing treatment is an individual decision.
"So we're going to do everything in our power that we can do, but they got to take initiative to come and reach out and we'll be right here for them to reach out to," he said.