Thursday, January 29, 2015
Accidental death from drugs on the rise, but North Dakota still has lowest rate in the country
Melissa Patterson knows her daughter, a 22-year-old heroin addict, could die any day from an overdose. “I worry every night that I’m going to get that phone call that she’s gone,” Patterson said. “When I don’t hear from her for a few days, that’s the first place my mind goes.” Patterson, 42, has even written her daughter’s obituary anticipating that she’ll join the rising numbers of North Dakotans who’ve accidentally died from drug use. The most recent state data shows 32 people died this way in 2013, compared with just five in 1999, according to the North Dakota Department of Health, which tallied a total of 256 such deaths in that 15-year span. Though, exactly how many of those deaths were the result of overdoses from recreational use of heroin, prescription painkillers or other opiates is a number that eludes state officials. In trying to combat what’s part of a nationwide trend of opiate abuse, North Dakota lacks a system to count fatal and nonfatal overdoses around the state, which complicates decisions on where to direct funding, said Pamela Sagness, an administrator in the state Department of Human Services. North Dakota officials are seeking to create a system, similar to those in many other states, that would use data from hospitals to help track overdoses. But there’s no timeline of when this plan would take effect, Sagness said.
Grand Forks Herald