Opioid-Related Overdoses Decreasing in Cass County
Since 2016, there's been an 80 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths in Cass County
FARGO, N.D. — “The alarm bells really started ringing in 2016 when we had a high number of opioid overdoses,” said Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Robyn Sall.
In that year alone, Cass County had 31 opioid–related overdose deaths.
Since then, that number has decreased by more than 80 percent.
“We are seeing reductions on a county–wide level, on a state–wide level, even though those numbers nationally still seem to be trending upwards. We’re luckily not one of those, at least over the past year, that have seen an upwards trend,” said Sall.
The Fargo Cass Public Health Department says a community–wide collaboration is to thank for the reductions in overdoses.
Starting with the healthcare system …
“Both Essentia and Sanford have seen significant reductions in their level of prescribing.”
… and law enforcement,
“We really made it a focus. Worked with our local prosecutors and the U.S. Attorney’s Office here at the federal level to identify and prosecute people that were really responsible for those types of things,” said Fargo Police Sgt. Matt Christensen.
… to the public health department.
“In our community, we’ve had widespread distribution of Naloxone or Narcan to reduce opioid overdose. So we have trained thousands of people on how to respond to an opioid overdose,” said Sall.
But officials say a reduction in opioid addiction may be paving the way for a different drug epidemic.
“Last year, in 2018, we actually had more meth overdoses than opioid overdoses. People are actually switching, you know, from opioids to meth because they have the perception that it’s safer,” said Sall.
She says not only is meth not safer than opioids, it’s in a sense more dangerous once you become addicted.
“There’s no overdose antidote for meth. We don’t have a Naloxone for meth. So, if someone is overdosing from meth, we can’t go and save them.”
According to the CDC, more than 10,000 Americans died from an overdose involving drugs like meth and cocaine in 2017. That’s a 37 percent increase from the previous year.