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Governor declares opioid abuse a public health crisis


Newly released data from the Arizona Department of Health Services shows in 2016, 790 Arizonans died from opioid overdoses — an average of more than two people per day. The trend shows an alarming increase of 74 percent over the past four years. Today’s declaration by the governor directs the Arizona Department of Health Services to rapidly respond to this public health emergency.

“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 declaration gives Arizona the ability to coordinate public health efforts between state, local and private-sector partners and allows the state to utilize all of its public health resources, including by distributing naloxone throughout the community to help prevent drug overdose deaths. The declaration and enhanced surveillance advisory will provide for enhanced reporting of overdose deaths from doctors and hospitals.

“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.”

As part of this public health emergency, the Arizona Department of Health Services will identify ways to:

  • prevent prescription opioid drug abuse through appropriate prescribing practices
  • develop guidelines to educate healthcare providers on responsible prescribing practices,
  • expand access to treatment, especially Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), and
  • reverse overdoses through the distribution of naloxone.

View a copy of the emergency declaration along with information and updates on our progress in turning the tide on the Arizona opioid epidemic here: http://azhealth.gov/opioid