PHOENIX, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Governor Ducey declared a statewide emergency Monday in an effort to combat the growing opioid epidemic, according to a release.
"As the number of opioid overdoses and deaths increase at an alarming rate, we must take action. It's time to call this what it is — an emergency," the governor said.
DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY
The Arizona Department of Health Services released a report detailing opioid deaths in the state since 2007.
According to that report 790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses last year, about two people per day. That's a more than 16 percent increase since 2015.
The report projects the number of overdose deaths will grow to 1,000 by 2019 if current trends continue.
Ducey's declaration gives the state the ability to coordinate public health initiatives at the state, local, and private level.
The Governor's Office said part of the plan is to distribute naloxone to prevent overdose deaths, as well as working closely with doctors and hospitals for enhanced reporting of overdose deaths.
As part of the emergency response, the department of health services is looking at ways to prevent abuse through education and better prescribing practices, and working toward more effective treatments.
Susannah Castro lost her son Cree to a heroin overdose in downtown Tucson on May 5, 2015. She's since started The Cree Project to serve as a grassroots effort to educate the public about the dangers of opioid addiction and connect people in need with the right services and resources.
She said trying to find the proper treatment for her son was "a nightmare."
He was denied at one location because of his private insurance coverage, she said. He walked out of another because the first interaction her had with staff was brash and unsympathetic to Cree's addiction.
"We ran up against so my obstacles and it doesn't need to be this way," said Castro.
She said Monday that she's glad to see the declaration from the governor, but she's worried how long it will take to see results. The declaration calls for research and recommendations, but Castro said that time and money should reach the treatment centers and individuals in need sooner than that.
"I think the information is here, it's in front of us," she said. "We know that the numbers have increased exponentially. People need help right now."