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Tracking overdose deaths in real time critical to fighting drug abuse problem

Posted at 11:30 AM, Mar 08, 2018

Nevada leaders from law enforcement, prosecutors, the medical and recovery fields, and several others gathered together to talk about a major gap when it comes to fighting the drug addiction epidemic: collecting real-time local data. 

Currently, Nevada relies on data from the Center for Disease Control. But the most recent numbers are from 2016 which shows 665 people died from drug overdose in Nevada.   

Authorities from the various agencies agree they need more up-to-date local data for several reasons. First, they want to know exactly how big the problem really is and where resources need to be strategically focused such as prevention, intervention and addressing criminal activity. 

Attorney General Adam Laxalt explained that there's a process in place to detect and track whenever there's a spike in deaths related to disease or critical health outbreaks. But that doesn't exist for addiction-related deaths. 

The Attorney General's office issued the following information Thursday:

Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced the formation of a Statewide Partnership on the Opioid Crisis. The Working Group’s first meeting will take place today, and will include members from local and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, experts in the medical field, elected officials, and judicial and educational representatives. The primary function of the statewide partnership is to make recommendations to the Attorney General’s Office and Nevada’s Statewide Opioid Coordinator on best practices for data sharing to combat the opioid crisis. This remains a critical gap in Nevada’s response to the crisis.
With a group of interested stakeholders and selected experts from around the State, the Working Group is uniquely situated to understand how current opioid information is being exchanged, and work towards creating the best possible system of exchanging cross-agency information and real-time data. In October 2017, AG Laxalt appointed Terry Kerns as Nevada’s first Statewide Opioid Coordinator. Kerns, a retired Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been working to bridge the gap between local law enforcement and state victims’ service providers to ensure a coordinated response to Nevada’s opioid crisis. Kerns’ position is funded through a federal grant from Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services, which has specifically requested that the Attorney General’s Office and the Statewide Opioid Coordinator create the Statewide Partnership.
Topics and presentations for the first Working Group meeting include: current drug trends in the State, information on Nevada’s Prescription Monitoring Drug Program, educational programs available for students and Nevada’s youth, sharing information between government agencies, overdose map systems, and information exchanges between first responders, law enforcement and public health agencies.  
"I commend Governor Sandoval for his leadership on this issue, and agree with his agencies that the sharing of information and statistics between healthcare providers and law enforcement will prevent opioid overdoses and save lives," said Laxalt. "I believe in an all-of-the-above approach to the opioid crisis, and look forward to statewide communication and collaboration on this issue."

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