Agencies team up to raise awareness about drug overdoses and share prevention resources that can save lives

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Wednesday, Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. The North Dakota Department of Health, North Dakota Highway Patrol and North Dakota Department of Human Services are remembering people lost to drug overdoses and their family members and raising awareness about available prevention resources that can help save North Dakotans’ lives.

According to the Department of Health’s Violent Death Reporting System, there were 115 drug overdose deaths in 2020. Preliminary data from 2021, shows North Dakota had 131 drug overdose deaths with nearly 40% involving individuals ages 30-39.

“Our contribution to this public health issue involves improving the monitoring, collecting and reporting of data on overdose deaths in a timely manner to help our partners, key stakeholders and community members with their decision-making processes to continue to strengthen statewide prevention efforts,” said Kodi Pinks, DoH epidemiologist.

NDHP Col. Brandon Solberg agrees that partnerships are critical in helping build stronger communities to help reduce drug overdose deaths.

“Eliminating the demand for illicit, potentially lethal drugs requires ongoing partnerships between criminal justice and public health agencies to ensure timely access to treatment and recovery services,” he said.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

An overdose requires immediate medical attention.

Individuals who show these signs and symptoms may be experiencing a drug overdose:

  • heartbeat or breathing is slow or has stopped or is unresponsive,
  • body is limp and fingernails or lips have a blue tinge, and
  • individual is vomiting or making gurgling noises.

If individuals observe these signs and symptoms in someone, they should call 911 immediately and administer naloxone if available.

Resources to save lives

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is effective in reversing drug overdoses if administered in a timely manner. Naloxone is available through many North Dakota public health units, pharmacies or primary care providers. A free two-dose naloxone kit is also available from the DHS Behavioral Health Division by visiting behavioralhealth.wufoo.com/forms/narcan-request or calling 701-328-8920, 711 (TTY).

North Dakota has a law, known as the Good Samaritan Law, that protects anyone who administers naloxone in a good faith effort to reverse an opioid overdose and contacts 911.

“We are committed to working with our partners to address the overdose epidemic," said Behavioral Health Division Director Pamela Sagness. “Ensuring North Dakotans have access to naloxone and training on how to use it in the event they encounter an individual experiencing an overdose is a crucial step in saving lives statewide."

With funding from a federal grant, the division has distributed nearly 31,400 naloxone kits since 2017 and provided training on how to administer it.

Treatment options

Various treatment options are available for individuals with a substance use disorder including the department’s eight regional human service centers, four licensed opioid treatment programs as well as other private providers. To find a treatment provider in North Dakota, visit behavioralhealth.nd.gov/addiction/service-locator.  

To request naloxone training, or other resources to prevent overdose and overdose deaths, visit behavioralhealth.nd.gov/opioids or contact a local public health unit.

Information about the Good Samaritan Law can be found at behavioralhealth.nd.gov/opioids/good-samaritan.

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