Fentanyl is a powerful opioid, roughly 50-100 times stronger than morphine. South Dakota is receiving $8 million to battle abuse of opioids, which officials say kills an average of 34 in the state each year. 

An average of 34 South Dakotans die each year from abusing opioids, according to Department of Social Services Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill.

Gill and other state officials hope an $8 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will help alleviate the problem. She expects more than 58,000 South Dakota residents will be helped by these funds.

“The ultimate goal is to keep families safe and healthy,” Gill said. “Addiction complicates everybody’s lives. A person can lose their jobs, engage in illegal activities and crime, and their physical health can be affected.”

Examples of opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, include:







Gill said the grant will fund ongoing opioid prevention and treatment services as well as provide intensive case management support for pregnant and postpartum women affected by opioid use, help form more recovery homes in the state.

The $8 million will also help expand peer recovery support programs and care coordination for people addicted to methamphetamine, which is not an opioid, but a synthetic stimulant drug with effects similar to cocaine.

Gill described her agency’s strategy as a “three-legged approach”: raise awareness about opioid and meth addiction; work on providing addiction treatment available closer to people’s homes; and educate people about how to prevent addiction. This includes, she said, parents talking to their kids about the dangers of these drugs.

Part of the grant funding will go toward expanding the department’s Avoid Opioid campaign, which launched in June 2018. The main focus was creating a website with a wealth of information for people struggling with addiction and their loved ones. This includes a free, confidential resource hotline for users or loved ones, which can be reached at 1-800-920-4343.

The money will also be used to expand access to recovery homes for individuals with substance abuse disorder across the state. Presently, with limited recovery homes, someone might have to leave their hometown — and their support system — to receive help.

“It helps to provide that kind of support closer to where people’s families are,” Gill said.

Peer recovery support programs will also benefit from these dollars. Gill said the department will use some of the funds to expand per recovery support systems for meth use.

“When someone’s recovering from drug addiction, it helps to include their peers that have recovered themselves,” she said.

With help from the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy, DSS is also working to make naloxone (generic for Narcan) more widely available to users. They are helping to educate pharmacists on how to dispense naloxone to people who overdose on opioids. More pharmacies across the state will be added over time. Gill encouraged individuals interested in obtaining naloxone to call their local pharmacy first to make sure it has some on hand. Sometimes insurance will cover the cost, but Gill said there is funding available from Community Behavioral Health under DSS.

The DSS is also sponsoring Prescription Drug Take Back Day today, which is focused on disposing of unwanted or unused prescription drugs that could otherwise fall into the wrong hands.

Unwanted medications can be disposed of in a secure medication drop box at participating locations like pharmacies and police stations, according to a press release from DSS. If one is unable to make it to a drop-off location, DisposeRx packets are available for free from DSS. They contain an ingredient approved by the Food and Drug Administration that, when mixed with water, chemically and physically neutralizes the medication so it can be safely thrown away at home.

To find take-back locations or order DisposeRx packets, visit www.AvoidOpioidSD.com/take-action/take-back-sites.

“The bottom line is to keep families safe. We all need to work together — it takes more than us, doctors, and counselors [to curb drug addiction,” Gill said.

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