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Mont. Receives Failing Grade for Response to Opioid Crisis

More than 700 Montanans have overdosed on opioids since 2000. (Cindy Shebley/Flickr)
More than 700 Montanans have overdosed on opioids since 2000. (Cindy Shebley/Flickr)
April 5, 2018

HELENA Mont. – Montana received failing marks in a new report tracking states' progress in the fight against the opioid crisis. The Treasure State, along with seven other states, has failed to implement more than two of the report's six key actions for reducing opioid overdoses, according to "Prescription Nation 2018" from the National Safety Council.

On the positive side, Montana has increased access to the lifesaving opioid antidote Naloxone and increased the availability of use disorder treatment. However Jane Terry, senior director of government affairs with the National Safety Council, says the state is falling behind when it comes to tracking and sharing data on drugs and overdoses.

"This is really a key component to figuring out what is going on out there,” says Terry. “Something that public health officials need to be able to evaluate where to really focus their resources to get the biggest bang for the buck."

Other actions include mandating education for prescribers and implementing opioid prescription guidelines. More than 700 Montanans have died from opioids since 2000.

In 2016, more than 42,000 people died from opioids nationwide. And U.S. lifespan estimates declined for the second year in a row last year, primarily because of drug overdoses.

Despite its epidemic proportions, Terry says states are making progress. But she says the country needs to shed the damaging stigmas that surround drug addiction.

"Addiction is a disease; it's not a moral failing,” she says. “It's not a tough-love approach that is going to help prevent some of these deaths. It's getting people into treatment services and providing safe places for them to continue to receive that treatment as they recover from their addiction."

The report says 13 states and Washington D.C. are improving and meeting five or six of the indicators. Only Nevada and New Mexico are meeting all six.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT