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Officials Say Opioid Overdose Deaths Dropped By Half

June 20, 2018 | Bay City News Service | SFGate

Officials with the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency said recently-released data reveal that the number of opioid overdose deaths decreased by nearly 50 percent in 2017. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. 

Health Care Services Agency officials said they are working with multiple partners to reduce and prevent the misuse of opioids and associated mortality rates. 

They said a coalition that includes the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association, the Safety Net Coalition, which is led by the Health Care Services Agency, and the MEDS Coalition are working together to address opioid abuse in Alameda County. 

Dr. Thomas Sugarman, the president of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association, said in a statement, "The collective effort of providers from the entire medical community is making a life-saving difference." 

Sugarman said, "Especially with the growing threat of fentanyl, now is the time to re-double our efforts to improve access to medication-assisted treatment and help individuals suffering from addiction walk the road to recovery." 

Dr. Kathleen Clanon, the Health Care Service Agency's medical director, said, "The increase in availability in Buprenorphine makes life-saving treatment more accessible for patients and contributes to the decrease in overdoses and prescriptions in Alameda County." 

Health officials said Buprenorphine, known as "Bupe" for short, is a drug that allows people who use opioids to focus on improving their health instead of grappling with a vicious cycle of addiction and withdrawal. 

They said Bupe offers the brain a chance to recover and heal, allowing the patient to find more time to engage in behaviors that promote recovery. 

Coalition members said they have had success with an opioid misuse and overdose prevention and safety initiative because since 2015 prescriptions of opioids have decreased 12 percent in Alameda County and prescriptions for Buprenorphine have increased 16 percent. 

In addition, they said it is also estimated that nearly 300 lives have been saved through the use of community-based Naloxone kits, which are antidotes to opioid overdoses. 

Coalition members said the strategy to reduce opioid use and overdoses includes positively impacting the lives of abusers through needle exchanges and street medicine. 

Continue reading the full article in SFGate.