Iowa health department says opioid deaths down in Iowa

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) -- According to the Iowa Department of Public health, opioid deaths in Iowa more than tripled from 2005 to 2017. However, thanks to the availability of naloxone and advances in medication treatment. The number of people dying in Iowa is fewer.

Preliminary data from the health department shows that 89 people in the first eight months of 2018, died from opioid related deaths compared to 137 people in 2017. Health officials say one of the biggest reasons for the decline is the availability of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.

“Kicks that kickball of opioid off the brain receptor site and saves the patient's life,” said Patricia Miller, Iowa State Director for Center for Behavioral Health.

Saving lives is the goal that medical staff have been working on with this nationwide problem.

“I think the efforts that have been done especially in the states of Iowa and Illinois have been helpful,” said Heather Olson, with Center for Alcohol and Drug Services.

Although reducing overdose is crucial, health experts say it's important to remember treatment is needed for people with opioid use disorder.

“The reports look hopeful that we've got 35 percent less opioid related deaths in 2018, to the data collected so far, but it doesn't tell the whole story,” said Miller.

Medication-assisted treatment programs have also played a role in the decline.

“Opioid addictions is one of the few addictions that really does require a medication-assisted approach for long time sober living opportunities and that's because of the way the brain is impacted by the opiates,” said Miller.

Center for Behavioral Health in Davenport focuses on providing services for patients still under the influence or are actively in severe withdrawal from an opiate.

The treatment focuses on harm reduction meaning all the patients are coming in voluntarily. Their goal is to stabilize a patient using either Buprenorphine commonly known as Suboxone or Methadone.

“It's kind of like wrapping a warm blanket around the brain receptor site. It comforts it, it quiets it, so the patient doesn't become what's called ‘dope sick’ with severe physical withdrawals," said Miller.

For $75 a week patients can get medication, counseling, lab tests among other things. In order for a patient to qualify for the treatment program, they have to be 18 and up, as well as have an opioid addiction for 12 months and more.

As the opioid crisis continues, experts say working together can make a difference.

“It is a health crisis. I think it is something that we all as a community have to work together to provide good prevention services,” said Olson.

The center has so far helped 201 patients on their medication-assisted program.