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Arizona ranked among middle in US for drug overdose deaths

PHOENIX — Arizona ranked among the middle of the U.S. for the rate of drug overdose deaths in 2017, a new report found.

A report from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that the state had the 24th-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country.

The center chose Arizona as one of its five states to evaluate because of its high opioid-related deaths, Medicaid expansion, political and geographically diverse climates.

The majority of the $193 million in funding that Arizona received went to Maricopa and Pima counties.

Dr. Anand Parekh, the center’s chief medical advisor, said this is a good thing, as the majority of the deaths occurred in these areas.

‘The finding there is important for policymakers of all levels to focus on rural areas, given that in those areas, treatment and infrastructure capacities are limited,” Parekh said.

Parekh said there are three discoveries from the report that policymakers need to keep in mind: Sustainability, flexibility and better coordination at the federal level.

He also added that more emphasis is needed to bring in medication-assisted treatment. It is evidence-based and incorporates behavioral therapy and medication.

Rural areas, like Gila County, are receiving less funding per capita relative to their high opioid-related death rates.

Increasing that funding would ensure “vulnerable populations, tribal populations and others that are affected by opioid use disorder are being helped,” Parekh said.

But Parekh added that Arizona has made great strides in fighting the opioid epidemic.

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