With 200-plus deaths in 60 days, Ducey extends opioid overdose tracking order – AZCentral.com

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Arizona ranked fifth highest for opioid prescription rates in the U.S. in 2011, and was sixth highest for drug overdose deaths in 2010.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey this week extended an order requiring timely tracking of suspected opioid overdoses, a move that coincides with talk of declaring a state of national emergency. 

Ducey’s initial June 13 order called for state health officials to collect opioid-related overdose information from first responders and health-care providers within 24 hours of a case, providing a nearly real-time picture of the issue.

Efforts also intensified to outfit law-enforcement officers and other public safety personnel with naloxone, known by its trade name Narcan. 

About 1,000 first responders on the front lines of the overdose crisis have been trained since June, and the Arizona Department of Health Services now provides free kits to agencies that attend training. 

Emergency responders have administered at least 1,071 doses since June. That’s in addition to at least 1,086 kits distributed to the public from area pharmacies.  

“The real-time data that is being reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services is already making a big impact on our ability to address the opioid epidemic in our state,” Ducey said in a statement Thursday. “This data is a vital resource to ADHS and other partners working to save lives and reduce the number of people in our state affected by this crisis.”

More than 1,400 suspected opioid overdoses have been reported since June 15, including 206 deaths. Seventy-seven percent of those cases had a prescription before their recent overdose, and most occurred at people’s homes, according to ADHS.

Excluding deaths, 85 percent of possible opioid overdoses received naloxone before patients reached the hospital, according to the state’s online tracking system.

“Prior to the executive order, the records we had on opioid overdoses could be more than a year old,” said Dr. Cara Christ in a written statement. “That data helped us to identify the crisis in Arizona, and now with the enhanced surveillance data we are able to make recommendations that can prevent opioid overdoses and deaths.”

At least 790 Arizonans died from overdoses of opioid prescription medications and heroin last year, a 74 percent surge since 2012, ADHS reported last spring. 

The original order was set to expire this month. 

Ducey’s call Thursday for a 60-day extension coincided with President Donald Trump saying he intends to declare a state of national emergency in response to the opioid crisis. Doing so would expand the federal government’s powers and free resources to combat substance abuse and treat overdoses.

Drug overdoses likely killed at least 59,000 people in 2016, driven largely by a surge in heroin use along with prescription drug abuse, the New York Times reported earlier this year. Official government data from last year won’t be available for several months because of delays in reporting. 

“We’re going to make it a national emergency,” Trump said from his New Jersey golf club. “It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.” 

The last time a president took similar action was in 2009, when President Obama declared a one-year state of national emergency to prepare for the H1N1 influenza virus.

“Declaring it a national emergency instantly identifies this crisis as the most important public health emergency we’ve had since this nomenclature came about,” said James Hodge Jr., a law professor at Arizona State University who specializes in public health law and emergency preparedness. “This is that serious of a crisis.”

USA TODAY contributed to this article. 

Reporter Jason Pohl covers public safety for The Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter: @pohl_jason. 

 

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