South Dakota Department of Health discusses opioid deaths

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Deaths from opioids dropped in South Dakota last year.

That’s according to Amanda Nelson, the state Department of Health official who tracks them.

The latest numbers are 27 deaths from opioids in 2018, with 22 from prescriptions and five from illicit sources. That’s down from 35 in 2017 and 38 in 2016, she said

Nelson reported the numbers Wednesday during the semi-annual meeting of South Dakota’s prescription opioid-abuse advisory committee.

She cautioned that the 2018 total, which included 23 from prescriptions and five from illicit sources, was still unofficial.

There seemed to be similar progress regarding drug overdoses in which opioids were suspected causes, with 125 incidents in 2016 and 95 in 2018.

Looking at recent data, Nelson indicated the trend was continuing, from 54 suspected opioid overdoses in the first quarter of 2018 versus 41 in first quarter 2019.

Ron Parsons, the U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota, asked about getting more detailed data.

“There’s such a dearth of information in the law enforcement community about this,” Parsons said. 

Melissa DeNoon manages the prescription drug monitoring program for the state Board of Pharmacy. She said an enhanced version of PDMP reports would roll out Monday, July 15.

Her numbers showed total opioid prescriptions went down 19.3% from 2016 to 2018, while quantities fell 26%. Highest-using counties in South Dakota showed similar downward trends.

“It’s good to see in these counties there are decreases each year,” DeNoon said

State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said 13 of South Dakota’s 66 counties had characteristics that made them vulnerable to opioid abuse: Brown, Buffalo, Charles Mix, Corson, Dewey, Hughes, Lyman, Minnehaha, Oglala Lakota, Pennington, Roberts, Todd and Yankton.

He noted other more-populous counties such as Brookings and Codington weren’t among them. He suggested the panel start to take into account how to modify the state opioid-abuse response plan to better fit those 13 counties.

Clayton said the next steps include making the public aware and providing public access to the data. The maps will be on the state Department of Health website and will have interactive capability.

“Take a look at what’s been presented today. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me,” Clayton said. “I’d be happy to answer any questions.” 

Several people from media companies presented information on their efforts to publicize South Dakota’s opioid situation. One was Candace Muggerud from KAT Marketing in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Muggerud has used in-house TV to reach students in 10 reservation-area high schools and 15 federal and tribal clinics and health care centers. She plans to add 10 more reservation-area schools this year.

She said the federal Centers for Disease Control has recognized for years that “edutainment” — a blend of education and entertainment — can be effective in settings where people are waiting hours for care, such as at federal Indian Health Service facilities.

A step Muggerud said she plans to add this year is showing opioid-abuse videos during the annual Lakota Nation Invitational sports and arts gathering in Rapid City.

Tom Martinec, currently the deputy secretary for the state Department of Health, said the meeting would be his last as the committee’s chairman. He said he moving to a new position in the state Department of Human Services. A successor as chair hasn’t been announced.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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