AP NEWS

Drug OD deaths inched up in North Dakota last year

October 17, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Department of Health says the number of drug overdose deaths increased slightly in the state last year.

According to the Division of Vital Statistics, North Dakota recorded 76 drug-related deaths in 2017. That’s up from 68 deaths the previous year. The deaths include suicides and accidental overdoses.

Director Pam Sagness of the North Dakota Department of Human Services Division of Behavioral Health told The Bismarck Tribune last year was “pivotal” for North Dakota, since it was the first year state funding was appropriated to prevent drug overdoses.

The Department of Human Services is waiting for the final number of overdose deaths in 2017 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before determining how effective those efforts are, Sagness said. The CDC interprets the data differently to determine what constitutes an overdose death, she said.

In 2016, the CDC reports there were 77 overdose deaths in North Dakota.

However, preliminary overdose death numbers from the CDC show about a 5 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. Over the years, the state has seen a slowing in the increase of drug overdose deaths.

Sagness said the preliminary CDC data is “hopeful for us,” but she said the numbers could go up until the data is finalized.

“The increases over time were significant, and now they’re really decreasing,” she said.

In 2017, North Dakota lawmakers approved bills totaling about $7 million for behavioral health services. Since then, more than 1,500 people have been trained across the state in overdose response and more than 5,000 overdose-reversal kits have been disseminated, Sagness said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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