About a month ago, we reported that, nationally, drug overdoses were down in 2018. That’s according to the latest data from CDC.
In North Dakota, that’s true too. Deaths went down from 76 to 66 between 2017 and 2018. But that trend downward slowed in 2019, with 65 deaths.
And while there isn’t statewide data yet for 2020, police in the capital city are sounding the alarm.
“None of this stuff’s worth dying for,” shared Bismarck Police Sergeant Michael Bolme.
He says the availability of Naloxone, or Narcan, has to be a reason for the nationwide decrease.
“It has to have countless saves nationwide. Plus the awareness is starting to kick in,” added the Investigations Sergeant.
He says BPD officers have been equipped with Narcan for about three to four years now. Even so, he says overdoses remain a constant for the department.
“All of them are concerning. Because we treat all of those fatal overdoses…we basically have to work those like homicides,” Sgt. Bolme expressed.
Here are statistics from the last three years:
- 2017: 22 overdoses
- 2018- 21 overdoses
Bismarck Police just started tracking fatalities in 2019.
- 2019: 36 overdoses, 4 fatalities
This morning, Bismarck Police told us there have been 12 overdoses already in 2020. And as of the last day of February, the city has already surpassed the number of overdose deaths from 2019 by 2.
- 2020: 12 overdoses so far, 6 fatalities
One happened just last night.
“You’re looking at such a small statistical anomaly that it’s hard to make guesses about what’s going on as far as numbers. When you see a city like ours have a statistical jump, it could also be a bad batch out there too,” explained Sgt. Bolme.
The state started trying to tackle the problem over a decade ago. Laura Anderson with the Department of Human Services says in 2017, they ramped up the efforts with federal funding.
“Providing public education and training individuals to know if someone’s at risk. And knowing if they see someone who may have overdosed, what they can do,” The Assistant Director of the Behavior Health Division for DHHS shared.
It all goes back to Naloxone. She says if you know someone at risk, it’s something you want to keep around.
Sgt. Bolme says overdoses are still underreported.
“People are so reluctant to call for help in that situation because I think there’s still that stigma out there, that they’re going to get in trouble. We do honor the “Good Samaritan” Law. If somebody stays and does the right thing, they’re not going to get charged,” he urged.
Eight of those 12 overdoses in Bismarck were due to heroin, and the rest were opiate-related or unknown.
Another important note from Sgt. Bolme: One dose of Narcan won’t necessarily save someone’s life, depending on the strength of the drug, or how much is in someone’s system.
He says even if you have administered it to someone overdosing, still get them to the emergency room immediately.
Click here for more information on where to get Naloxone.