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Gov. Doug Ducey declares opioid health crisis in Arizona

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2010 file photo, a pharmacy tech poses for a picture with hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets, the generic version of Vicodin in Edmond, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey declared a health emergency in Arizona on Monday after data showed there was a growing number of opioid overdose deaths in the state.

Numbers from the Arizona Department of Health Services released last week showed 790 people in the state died last year from an overdose, a 16 percent increase from 2015.

“That was an average of more than two people per day,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. “The trend shows an increase of 74 percent over the past four years.”

State health services director Dr. Cara Christ said the declaration — the first statewide public health emergency in the past decade — will help her agency fight the opioid problem.

“This declaration is going to help us treat this as a public health epidemic,” she said.

The declaration allows the state to coordinate public health efforts, make more resources available and gives the state better and more immediate access to overdose and death data.

“Without good real-time data, it’s difficult for us to know the etiology or the causes of these deaths and why they’re dying,” Christ said.

Within seven days, Christ’s agency will make recommendations to Ducey. The governor can use those to initiate emergency rules for prescribing opioids and to enhance surveillance for improved health data.

“We’ll [also] be developing and disseminating guidelines to help healthcare providers provide responsible prescribing practices,” she said.

“We’ll developing and providing training to law enforcement agencies to provide lifesaving Naloxone to those who overdose in the field.”

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