Funding to address deadly opioid epidemic is only half the battle according to addiction professionals

BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) – Opioid addiction can happen to anyone. About 10 percent of patients taking opioids for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“All these folks that were addicted from sports-related injuries, or back pain, or whatever, those folks found themselves moving to heroin, and the next phase of the epidemic was fentanyl,” said Kurt Snyder, executive director at Heartview Foundation.

In 2021, Bismarck police responded to 134 overdoses. That’s an increase of 81% from 2020. Nineteen of those overdoses resulted in death. And deaths are on the rise. Officials say this is likely due to the increased prevalence of fentanyl, where a lethal dose can be as small as 2,000 micrograms — the size of a few grains of sand.

“If it keeps doubling like that, that’s just unacceptable. As a community we need to do something about this because the police alone can’t fix this,” said Bismarck Chief of Police Dave Draovitch.

More Narcan is being used than ever before in Bismarck. Bismarck police officers each carry two doses when on duty.

“Some people are requiring two doses nowadays, and some even more than that because the fentanyl has a greater effect on them,” said Draovitch.

Some programs utilize medication-assisted treatments. Treatment specialists at Heartview Foundation say they help.

“When you look at opioid addiction and you look at what are the evidence-based best practices, by far and above traditional non-medication-based treatment services, medications are the most effective. Especially for opioid addiction,” said Snyder.

Now, $25.6 million in federal funds from the US Department of Health have been set aside to make medication-assisted treatments more widely available by 2025.

“That is really, really important. But I would say one of the biggest barriers in developing the services that our community needs is based upon workforce,” said Snyder.

There are several opioid treatment programs in North Dakota.

Kurt Snyder adds that recovery from addiction is possible with proper treatment.

If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, police urge residents to immediately call 911.

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