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New Data Suggests West Virginia Overdose Deaths Appear To Be Declining

September 5th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

After several years of steady increases, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today released preliminary data on 2018 fatal drug overdoses in West Virginia that suggest a leveling off or slight decrease in the total number of overdose deaths. The projected decrease of overdose deaths occurring for 2018 is expected to be a 6 percent decline compared to 2017 data.

“It’s incredibly heartening to see that we are finally starting to make some incredible strides in our fight against the terrible drug crisis that continues to hurt the people of our state and the entire nation. I’ve said for a long time that fixing this epidemic is the single most important thing that we absolutely need to do,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “But we still have a lot of work to do and we need to keep pushing for more and more solutions to this terrible problem.”

It is estimated that the final 2018 overdose deaths will be approximately 952 deaths. (This figure is calculated using reported deaths, historical data on pending records and causes of death, and the total number of pending records which remain unclassified as to the cause of death.) To date, DHHR’s Health Statistics Center has recorded 888 overdose deaths for 2018 with a number of deaths still pending a cause of death determination and a majority expected to be classified as drug overdose deaths.

“It is certainly encouraging to see this decline in overdose deaths,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “The decrease reflects the incredible support we've had from Governor Justice in fighting the disease of addiction, not to mention the hard work of individuals, agencies, and communities across the state, as well as changing substance use patterns. We still lose far too many West Virginians to this disease. There clearly remains much work for all of us to do together.” 

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