As the national opiod epidemic continues Iowa sees success as Illinois sets out plans to tackle the ongoing crisis.
According to early reports from the Iowa Department of Public Health, the number of opioid related deaths dropped since 2017. The IDPH believes a contributing factor is the availability of Narcan. Narcan is a nasal spray or injection which reverses toxic effects of overdoses. While Narcan doesn’t cure opioid addiction it has been used to save countless lives. In over a year the IDPH has distributed nearly 3,000 Narcan kits to the public.
IDPH has coordinated with community members to increase the availability of treatment for opioid addiction. The number of healthcare professionals eligible to prescribe buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid use, has increased from 31 in 2015 to 115 in 2018. The number of Iowa sites dispensing methadone, another treatment, has increased from eight locations in 2015 to 20 locations by mid-2019.
The success in reducing opioid deaths has been a community effort. “We’re very excited by the positive changes we’ve seen occur in the state, but IDPH can’t take all of the credit,” said DeAnn Decker, Interim Behavioral Health Division Director. “These changes would not have been possible if it were not for the dedicated providers, communities and coalitions that recognized a need and made change happen.”
In Illinois the opioid crisis continues to affect large populations. According to the Illinois Department of Health over 11,000 have died from opioid related causes since 2008. Between 2013 and 2016 overall opioid overdose deaths increased 82%. At the current rate the opioid epidemic will kill more than 2,700 Illinoisans in 2020. The Illinois Department of Health’s goal is to reduce the projected deaths by a third.
A new bill allows prescribing marijuana instead of opioids for intense pain. Opioids are highly addictive so alternative treatments may prevent addiction from ever occurring.