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State’s overdose death rate down for third year in a row

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For the third consecutive year, the state’s drug-overdose death ranking among states has improved, according to a Friday announcement by the New Mexico Department of Health and Gov. Susana Martinez.

Based on a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Mexico’s national ranking has improved from the second-highest drug-overdoes death rate in the United States in 2014 to 17th highest in 2017, the most current available data nationwide.

This is the first time New Mexico has ranked outside the top 15 since the CDC started reporting drug overdose death data in 1999. This comes as drug-overdose death rates saw a sharp 9.6 percent increase nationwide in 2017.

Under Martinez, New Mexico became the first state to require all local and state law enforcement agencies to provide officers with naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses, and New Mexico strengthened Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) laws to require health care providers to check the database when prescribing opioids, leading to fewer opportunities for someone addicted to opioids to go from doctor to doctor for drugs. Over the past year alone, patients receiving high-dose opioid prescriptions decreased by 17 percent.

NMDOH previously reported a 4 percent decline in death rates in 2017, due to overdose of commonly prescribed opioids such as oxycodone, compared to 2016. In addition, deaths due to heroin decreased by 9 percent and deaths due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl decreased by 6 percent over the same time period.

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Governor Martinez also signed legislation that allows both pharmacists and law enforcement to dispense naloxone without a prescription. Both efforts expanded access to the life-saving drug. Earlier this year, the National Safety Council reported that New Mexico is one of only two states that has implemented all six key actions recommended to reduce prescription painkiller deaths.

There is still more work to be done, officials said, as drug overdose deaths remain the leading cause of injury death in New Mexico. Nearly half of all overdose deaths in New Mexico resulted from prescription opioids such as morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone.