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Arizona Governor Declares State of Emergency Over Opioid Crisis

August 8, 2017

Arizona on Monday joined a growing number of states to declare a state of emergency over rising deaths from opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin.

The state of emergency declaration, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, directs the state's department of health services to respond quickly to the drug epidemic, including by distributing the overdose-reversal drug naloxone throughout the state and educating doctors about prescribing painkillers.

The declaration also directs the health department to increase access to medicines that help curb withdrawal symptoms for people who have addictions to opioids.

"As the number of opioid overdoses and deaths increase at an alarming rate, we must take action," Ducey said in a statement. "It's time to call this what it is — an emergency ... I'm declaring a statewide health emergency because we need to know more about the epidemic, including enhanced data that illustrates when and where these overdoses occur so that we can develop real, targeted solutions."

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a statement that the department would educate people about the use of multiple drugs and would look at data to see which areas of the state are most affected.

In 2016, 790 people in Arizona died from an opioid overdose, a growth of 74 percent in four years. Most-recently available national data show that deaths from opioid-related causes reached 33,000 in 2014.

State of emergency declaration are typically reserved for national disasters, but other states have made similar declarations, including Florida and Maryland, in the face of rising death tolls.