The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis says the nation’s opioid epidemic should be deemed a national emergency. Video provided by Newsy
President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would declare a state of emergency to address the nation’s growing opioid crisis.
“It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had,” Trump said Thursday in New Jersey.
While the epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse hasn’t reached emergency levels in South Dakota, state health and law enforcement officials said they’ve seen an increased influence of the drug.
The state has seen an uptick in opioid-related deaths. There were 37 opioid-related deaths were recorded in 2014, up from 15 deaths in 2007.
“We are one of the lowest states for overdose death in the country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem,” said Kari Shanard-Koenders, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy. “Even one person dying is a problem.”
The state last year created a task force to assess how often opioids are prescribed in the state and how they come to be diverted or abused. Shanard-Koenders said she hopes the data-driven approach will help officials find ways to prevent opioid addiction.
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A clearer picture is developing of exactly how many opioids and other controlled substances are being prescribed in the state, following the implementation of a new state law. Physicians who prescribe controlled substances are now required to log that information in a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Doctors can use the portal to see if patients have other painkiller prescriptions and might be “doctor shopping” to get another prescription for themselves or others.
Avera and Sanford have launched efforts to re-educate doctors about when it’s appropriate to prescribe opioid painkillers in response to the uptick in opioid-related deaths.
Dr. Tad Jacobs, chief medical officer at Avera Health, said doctors have also been trained to identify patients who could be addicted or diverting the drug. He said doctors confront those individuals and offer help, but their words aren’t always well-received.
“It’s not pretty,” Jacobs said. “Patients yell and scream at me as they walk out the door.”
Avera Health along with the U.S. Attorney’s office is set to host a conference October 18 for health care workers, counselors, law enforcement officers, community members and others aimed at exploring the challenges in treating opioid addiction and possible community solutions.
The use and abuse of opioid painkillers have also had an increasing role in violent crimes in the area, said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead.
“It’s not as bad as in West Virginia or Kentucky, where they’re piling up bodies in the morgue, but that’s not to say it’s not a problem here,” Milstead said.
Methamphetamine has appeared more frequently in his interactions, but opioids, and their more potent cousin heroin, have also become common, Milstead said.
Milstead said additional resources are needed to help track down and prosecute those illegally using or selling the drugs. And more treatment and prevention efforts are also needed, he said.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids nationally, according to the CDC. That number is the most recent available. And the Center reported that prescriptions quadrupled between 1999 and 2012, with South Dakota historically giving out fewer prescriptions per 100 people as compared to neighboring states Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. Per the 2012 data, the Great Plains region had a lower number of prescribed opioids as compared to the rest of the country.
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