LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Eighty-four percent of drug overdose deaths in Lancaster County in 2021 were connected to fentanyl.

That eye-opening statistic from the Lancaster County District Attorney caught the attention of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.

Fentanyl and the COVID pandemic were not a good combination and the lockdown played a huge factor in the increased use of opioids.

“Things really did go downhill during COVID,” RASE Project Supervisor, Colin Suber said.

Combating the opioid and heroin epidemic has been a key issue for Lancaster County first responders, police, and community leaders.

Medical professionals say the misuse of opioids typically comes from age 25 and younger. “It’s really a substance use disorder, it’s really an addiction epidemic and furthermore, as we’re seeing during this pandemic bringing the fact to light, it’s probably a behavioral health epidemic,” Dr. Mitchell Crawford said.

This alarming information was explained to United States Senator Pat Toomey (R).

He says it has been a constant battle when trying to stop more fentanyl from coming into the Midstate but the demand for opioids is strong and dangerous.

“I think it’s important to remember that there’s an underlying mental health problem that usually drives addiction which is a broad problem,” Toomey said.

Lancaster County continues to find ways to fight the opioid epidemic.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams says building a strong drug task force is key and implementing harsher sentences connected to fentanyl.

“It’s cheaper than heroin, so that’s more addictive than heroin and again it seems like the demand now is shifting from heroin at least what our drug task officers are seeing is that people are actually seeking out fentanyl,” Adams said.

Community leaders say they’re hopeful for those who are recovering from addiction can seek the help they need because services are back in person.