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Health

Opioid overdose deaths up nationally; NY state reacts

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Naloxone is the drug used to reverse an opioid overdose.

More Americans died last year of opioid overdoses than did the year before.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is responding to data that shows deaths by heroin more than tripled since 2010, and so is New York state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 47,000 deaths in 2014 from prescription opioid painkillers and heroin combined. That’s an increase over the previous year.

"We are fully engaged in an effort to reverse what’s going on and I’m optimistic that we’ll get there," says Robert Kent, the general counsel for the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or OASAS.

"The president has ordered a major review and an initiative at the federal level to try to address these issues as well and so I like to think we’re assisting if not leading those efforts in New York state through Gov. Cuomo’s leadership."

The state has trained 85,000 people to use Naloxone — the overdose reversal drug. Kent says there have been 2,500 overdose reversals in the past year.

He explains OASAS has a plan to intervene after an individual is saved from an overdose.

"Instead of them, when determined to be stable by the physicians in our emergency department, being allowed to leave, let’s work with them to call this program in this community that we’ve identified to do peer services and let them start to engage the individual," says Kent.