State health department reports 22% increase in overdose deaths

State health department reports 22% increase in overdose deaths
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 1:15 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting that 4,041 people died from overdoses in 2021—a 22% increase from the previous year.

“With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible, and individuals can go on to live full and productive lives. Our goal is to break the costly cycle of addiction and the smartest investment we can make to do that is expanding Medicaid,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley in a release.

Overdose deaths disproportionately affect American Indian/Indigenous and Black/African American people, with a 117% increase from 2019-2021 for the former and a 139% increase in the same period for the latter. In comparison, the rate rose by 53% in the same period among non-Hispanic white people.

The NCDHHS attributes the rise to illegally manufactured fentanyl, as 77% of overdose deaths in 2021 “likely involved fentanyl, often in combination with other substances.”

“In response, NCDHHS is expanding access to treatment and prevention. Our efforts include the distribution of more than 719,000 units of naloxone to agencies across the state to assist in overdose response efforts. Additionally, the department is working to increase access to medication assisted treatment by changing regulations so mobile medication units can provide methadone and other FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorders in North Carolina,” NCDHHS said in a release.

You can learn more about the status of the overdose crisis and what the NCDHHS is doing to combat the issue on its website.