MASON CITY, Iowa - Opioids...they're effective pain killers, but far too often, these potent drugs kill the people abusing them.
In October 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a national health emergency, and as lawmakers and health officials tackle the deadly problem, the Iowa Department of Public Health is reporting the number of opioid-related deaths appears to be declining in the state.
The number of deaths involving opioids from January to August of this year has fallen 35% from the same time frame in 2017, meaning that 89 people died during the first eight months of this year.
Health officials say several factors helped lead to the decline, including the widespread availability of Naloxone, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses in emergency situations, and it's been used recently at Prairie Ridge.
"There is a standing prescription order in the state at pharmacies for individuals. If you're getting an opioid prescription, you can actually get that naloxone, sometimes known as narcan, prescription just to have it."
Kelly Grunhovd with Prairie Ridge says she's glad to hear about a decline in opioid related deaths.
"There was a huge spike over 15 years of opioid related deaths and overdoses, and in one year, we were able to collectively as a state partnership reduce the amount by 35%."
In addition, YSS Francis Lauer is concerned with the crisis, as they have seen a slight increase in adolescents with opioid abuse and addiction. In addition to treatment, YSS Francis Lauer's Residential Clinical Director Andrea Dickerson says they're using education to warn those of the dangers, whether in residential or out-patient.
"We want to educate also the teenagers when they come in about the dangers and being informed. So if you do have to have a medical procedure, there are alternatives."
Grunhovd hopes that the number of deaths decline evern further.
"Opiate addiction is preventable and it's also treatable. For anybody who doesn't have an addiction, we can't stop that from happening, but for those who do, there are community supports and mechanisms for them to get the help they need to recover and abstain from those substances."
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 23 opioid-related deaths were reported in 2000, and that number has risen steadily since then, to a high of 206 in 2017.
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