The Arizona Department of Health Services just released some new weekly statistics and those numbers are adding fuel to the growing concerns over our state’s opioid crisis.
There have been 444 possible opioid overdoses, 36 of them fatal, in the first two weeks of Arizona’s new real-time reporting system, health officials said.
“This is the first time Arizona has ever received this type of real time data,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said.
Christ said the most alarming finding of the first two weeks was the 36 suspected deaths.
“It’s an average of 18 per week,” she said. “We have 790 in 2016, which puts us potentially over if this trend continues.”
KJZZ News Radio pointed out that since we are only two weeks into the reporting cycle, it’s too early to know if these numbers are indicative of a true increase. However, the spike is hard to ignore. “The number of suspected opioid overdoses jumped from 191 to 253, which is an increase of about 33 percent from one week to the next. The number of suspected opioid overdose deaths also rose from 15 to 21, which is a 40 percent increase.”
The new Senate health bill upped the amount of money available for states, like Arizona, to spend on opioid addiction treatment from $2 billion to $45 billion dollars. That sounds like a lot of money, but many experts say it’s still nowhere near enough. From the New York Times:
That is a big pot of money. But addiction specialists said it was drastically short of what would be needed to make up for the legislation’s deep cuts to Medicaid, which has provided treatment for hundreds of thousands of people caught up in a national epidemic of opioid abuse.
The new money would most likely flow to states in the form of grants over 10 years, averaging out to $4.5 billion per year. With hundreds of people dying every week from overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and opioid painkillers, some specialists say a fixed amount of grant money is simply inadequate compared with the open-ended funding stream that Medicaid provides to treat all who qualify for the coverage.
Politico.com quoted Republican John Giles, the mayor of Mesa, Ariz., as saying that while the Senate health bill might save money for the federal government, it could also boost costs to state and local governments when it comes to battling the opioid crisis.
“Any savings will be more than eaten up by the increased public safety budgets [for cities] like Mesa, Arizona,” he said. “Emergency medicine is not the correct way to respond to the crisis we are facing. It’s less effective. We need more preventative care.”
Let us know what you think about the new opioid overdose stats that just came out in Arizona and whether more funding will help with the ‘preventive care’ Mayor Giles spoke about. If you don’t think money is the answer – what is? Getting a handle on the opioid crisis in our state is critical if we hope to one day reach our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!