The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) Public Health Division is adding sponsorship of a national advertising campaign to its efforts to help prevent opioid misuse and related deaths, which also include promoting overdose rescue medication use and safe medication disposal.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said opioid usage, drug overdoses and related deaths are causing major public health crisis situations in many areas of the country. “While Wyoming is not experiencing the devastating consequences of opioid abuse to the same extent as some other states, we know many residents and their families are affected,” she said.
The “RX Awareness Campaign,” produced by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), illustrates prescription opioid abuse and overdose harms. WDH support of the campaign will include Wyoming newspaper, radio, television and online advertising with an emphasis on counties most affected by the issue.
“The campaign tells real stories of people whose lives were dramatically affected by opioid abuse,” Harrist said. “By supporting the CDC campaign in Wyoming, we want to help residents recognize that opioids can sometimes be addictive and dangerous.”
Wyoming’s total overdose deaths (not limited to opioids) decreased from 94 in 2016 to 60 in 2017 according to death certificate data from Vital Statistics Services, part of WDH.
“We do not know specifically why we saw the drop in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017 and have seen ups and downs in this type of data before,” Harrist said. “However, it’s true that many people across the state are working hard to help prevent the problem from growing here.”
Harrist said naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a safe, life-saving prescription medication that reverses overdoses from opioids. “Naloxone is increasingly available in Wyoming and we encourage people at high risk for an opioid overdose, as well as family and friends of these individuals, to consider keeping the drug on hand,” she said.
While naloxone is a prescription medication, a Wyoming law allows pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to individuals. “We encourage people to discuss the medication with a medical professional. However, anyone can go to a local pharmacy and ask about obtaining naloxone,” Harrist said. Wyoming first responder organizations such as local law enforcement units can apply to get grant funding for supplies of naloxone from WDH to boost wider availability across the state.
More information about opioid response efforts in Wyoming is available from WDH at www.opiwyo.org. The website includes naloxone details and includes a recommended link to training on how to give someone naloxone, as well as an application form for groups interested in getting free naloxone through WDH.
Another strategy supported by WDH is safe disposal of unused or unwanted medications. Medications can be safely disposed of at home with Deterra drug deactivation bags. WDH offers free supplies of Deterra bags. To request a shipment please contact Melissa Payne at [email protected] or 307-777-5017.
A robust network of dropbox locations for unused or unwanted medications is also available across Wyoming. Text 307-370-2086 to find the nearest local dropbox. Some sealed and in-date medications can also be given to the WDH Medication Donation Program. Visit https://health.wyo.gov/healthcarefin/medicationdonation/ to learn more.