Gov. Ducey declares health crisis after opioid deaths rise

- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is declaring a statewide health emergency in the wake of a new report that shows deaths from opioid overdoses increased by 16 percent last year.

The governor's declaration Monday comes with an order that the state Department of Health Services increase reporting on opioid-related deaths. He also wants the department to review ways to increase the availability of the opioid antidote naloxone, develop guidelines to increase health care provider education and expand access to treatment.

Last week's report shows that 790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses in 2016, more than two a day. Prescription opioids caused 482 deaths, compared to 308 for heroin.

The number of overdose deaths in Arizona has gone up by nearly 75 percent since 2012, when 454 were reported.

“As the number of opioid overdoses and deaths increase at an alarming rate, we must take action. It’s time to call this what it is — an emergency,” said Governor Ducey. “Most of us know someone impacted by substance abuse — our family, our friends, our neighbors. Our hearts ache for them, but that isn’t enough. We must do more. I’m declaring a statewide health emergency because we need to know more about the epidemic, including enhanced data that illustrates when and where these overdoses occur so that we can develop real, targeted solutions.”

“The only way we will be able to make an impact in the opioid epidemic is to come together as a community, and this declaration helps us move forward quickly,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We will look into improving prescription practices, addressing poly drug use, and analyzing raw data on overdose deaths that occur to see where the problem areas are and learn how we can make changes to save lives.”

Online: azhealth.gov/opioid

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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