Public health officials see results with efforts to address Iowa's opioid crisis

Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen in a prescription bottle. Photographed on Thursday, January 4, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen in a prescription bottle. Photographed on Thursday, January 4, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

A new Iowa Department of Public Health report on opioid misuse has found that expanded access to naloxone and medication-assisted treatment could be helping address Iowa’s opioid crisis.

A Friday news release from the Iowa Department of Public Health notes that preliminary data show the number of deaths related to opioids has decreased — with expanded availability of naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, considered a contributing factor.

Over the course of a year, the department distributed close to 3,000 Narcan naloxone nasal spray kits to the public, hospital emergency departments, Department of Corrections, EMS providers and the Department of Public Safety.

“We’re very excited by the positive changes we’ve seen occur in the state, but IDPH can’t take all of the credit,” DeAnn Decker, interim behavioral health Division director, said in the release.

“These changes would not have been possible if it were not for the dedicated providers, communities and coalitions that recognized a need and made change happen.”

Preliminary data from the department’s Bureau of Health Statistics for last year show a reduction in Iowa’s opioid deaths. In the first eight months of last year, Iowa saw 89 deaths, compared with 137 in the same time span in 2017.

In addition to reducing lives lost after an overdose, treatment is needed for people with an opioid-use disorder, according to the release.


The department has been assisting communities with increasing the availability of medication-assisted treatment. As a result, the number of health care professionals eligible to prescribe buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid use disorders, increased from 31 in 2015 to 115 this past year.

In addition, the number of Iowa sites able to dispense methadone, another treatment, increased from eight locations in 2015 to 20 planned by mid-2019.

Last May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law additional measures to combat opioid misuse in Iowa. The law requires prescribers to register with an online database and report any controlled substance they give to patients. Prescribers also must check the database before issuing an opioid prescription.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, every prescription issued for a controlled substance will be issued electronically, rather than on a paper prescription — a practice that allowed some to tamper with their prescription amount.

In November, a 2019 Iowa Drug Control Strategy issued by the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, noted a decrease of 9.7 percent in the number of controlled prescription drugs last year compared with 2016.

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