The number of opioid-related deaths is expected to increase in Iowa this year compared to 2016. There were 180 opioid-related deaths in Iowa last year, and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is projecting that number will hit 201 by the end of 2017.
Eighty-six Iowans died of opioid overdoses in 2016, and IDPH expects about 96 opioid overdose deaths in 2017.
Kevin Gabbert heads the State Opioid Treatment Authority, and he says he is not surprised by the projected increase.
Gabbert says the public health department is trying to be proactive about preventing deaths.
"We’ve taken part in several different efforts to try and address this issue like expanding medication assisted treatment (MAT) and making naloxone more readily available to individuals," Gabbert says. "So we’re hopeful that the increase that we saw wasn’t as much as it maybe could’ve been."
Gabbert says other states have seen success with legislative actions that strengthened prescription monitoring programs and instituted "good Samaritan" laws.
"Whether or not we would have seen a significant increase had these things been done sooner, I can’t say for sure," Gabbert says. "But I’m hopeful that in the future we can look at making some of those changes so that we can better address some of those issues."
Iowa lawmakers have yet to recommend specific legislation to prevent opioid abuse and overdoses.