Opioid deaths down in Iowa but it's still a major problem in north Iowa

Statewide deaths from opioid overdoses are down, but in Mason City, calls for overdoses remain steady.

Posted: Jul 8, 2019 10:26 PM
Updated: Jul 9, 2019 6:35 AM

MASON CITY, Iowa - According to the state Bureau of Health Statistics, opioid-related deaths dropped 33% in 2018.  

It's a different story in Mason City.  Since the start of the year, the fire department has responded to around 16 calls for opioid overdoses.  In 2018, they had 30 for the entire calendar year.

Deputy Chief Dave Johnson, who is in charge of the department's paramedic program, says opioids aren't the only problem.  "We've seen a rise in some of the illegal drugs.  Meth is up.  We've actually seen a rise in heroin," he said.

Last summer, the state used federal grant money to give 4,000 Narcan kits to pharmacists.  It's the same medication paramedics use on the scene to treat an overdose.  First responders can administer Narcan either intraveinously or through the nose.

From what he's seen, Deputy Chief Johnson says he doesn't think the opioid problem is getting better.

"It's something that we're seeing nationwide.  I don't believe it's going to go away any time soon.  We're just fortunate that we haven't seen any sharp increases in the use here."

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