High Opioid Rates

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JEFFERSON CITY - The rate of deaths related to opioids is slowly decreasing after the state saw a large increase two years ago.

"The opioid crisis is the number one public health issue Missouri is facing. We are incredibly thankful to all who have helped us meet the challenge that exists both nationally and in Missouri," Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Randall Williams said in a press release.

In 2016, there were 908 opioid related deaths, an increase by 35 percent from the 672 opioid deaths in 2015.

This last year, the opioid death toll was 951, an increase by 4.7 percent. DHSS said new laws and a grant are factors in the slower rate of deaths.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health has partnered with the Missouri Institute of Mental Health receiving grant money to better prevent, treat and recover from opioid use disorder. The grant is called the Missouri State Targeted Response. It implements an idea of "medication first" to treat provide more medications for opioid use disorder victims.

Department of Mental Health director Mark Stringer said the STR grant indicates a successful use of the medication first model.

"At agencies throughout the state, individuals were more likely to receive medication for OUD and receive the medication sooner," he said.

The grant also supplies over 5,000 naloxone kits for at-risk individuals.

The Missouri Senate passed a bill to limit new opioid prescriptions to a seven day supply.

The Missouri House also passed a bill to extend Medicaid coverage an additional year for mothers needing substance use treatment. Missouri is the first state to pass this type of policy.

Williams said the decreased rate of opioid deaths is a sign of improvement.

"We recognize that one loss is too many and we are committed to working as hard as we can to decrease the number of death," he said.