Arizona Opioid Deaths Appear To Be Going Up Even Faster Than In 2016

By Will Stone
Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 3:59pm

Almost half a year since Arizona declared the opioid crisis a statewide health emergency, overdose deaths appear to be going up even faster than in 2016, according to preliminary numbers.

Five hundred sixty-four people are suspected of dying from opioid-related overdoses between mid-June and mid-November, which is when the state began tracking overdose deaths in real time.

“If all of these were to be confirmed, we would be trending higher than we did in 2016,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Close to 800 people died in total last year. But those were confirmed deaths, meaning health officials checked the toxicology results. The new real-time data, which Christ says is critical for understanding what’s happening on the ground, hasn’t undergone that vetting yet.

“If these numbers are true, then we would be very very worried. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say about 60 to 70 percent of them will be confirmed,” she said.

That would put the state roughly on track to have the same number of deaths as last year. Next month, Christ said her department will begin getting the data that lets them check suspected deaths against confirmed ones.

The Ducey administration’s Opioid Action Plan, released earlier this year, aims to reduce fatal opioid overdoses by 25 percent in the next five years.

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