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WV DHHR releases 2016 overdose data

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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources released an analysis of 2016 drug overdose deaths on Tuesday.

The DHHR, the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began working on the analysis in November. State officials also discussed findings last month, during a public comment meeting on the state’s opioid plan.

“The report clearly identifies factors that we can now say contribute to the ‘profile of an overdosed person’ in West Virginia, highlighting opportunities for intervention in the 12 months prior to their death,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, said in a statement. “Since the analysis shows numerous missed opportunities, we now need to use these data to target specific interventions to help save lives of West Virginians.”

The 61-page analysis found:

  • Eighty-one percent of people who died of overdose interacted with at least one type of health care provider in the 12 months prior to their death.
  • Males were twice as likely as females to die from a drug overdose, while females who died of overdose sought more health care in the 12 months prior to their death.
  • Ninety-one percent of all those who died had a documented history within the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy’s Controlled Substances Monitoring Program. In the 30 days prior to death, nearly half (49 percent) of females who died filled a controlled-substance prescription in the 30 days prior to death, as compared to 36 percent of males.
  • Those who died of overdose were three times more likely to have three or more prescribers, compared to the overall CSMP population. Those who died were more than 70 times likely to have prescriptions at four or more pharmacies, compared to the overall CSMP population.
  • Thirty-three percent of those who died of overdose tested positive for a controlled substance but had no record of a prescription at their time of death, indicating diversion of a controlled-substance prescription.
  • Seventy-one of those who died of overdose used emergency medical services within the 12 months prior to their death. Only 31 percent of those who died had naloxone administration documented in their EMS record.
  • Those who died of overdose were much more likely to have Medicaid (71 percent) in the 12 months prior to their death, compared to West Virginia’s adult population ages 19-64 (23 percent). “This means that individuals could access healthcare,” the authors of the report wrote.
  • More than half (56 percent) of all those who died of overdose had been incarcerated. They were at an increased risk of death in the 30 days after their date of release, especially in those with only some high school education.
  • Males working in blue-collar industries with a higher risk of injury might be at an increased risk for overdose death.

Authors of the report noted that the number they used — 881 drug overdose deaths — was preliminary.

They first looked at death records and found that only 830 of those who died of overdoses lived in West Virginia and limited their analysis to those people. They then looked at EMS records, behavioral-health treatment records, Medicaid records, CSMP records and Corrections records.

Reach Erin Beck at, 304-348-5163, or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

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