Nevada launches opioid task force as fentanyl overdoses increase

By: - October 12, 2022 2:10 pm

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Attorney General Aaron Ford and Gov. Steve Sisolak launched an opioid task force called the Joint Advisory Task Force that is designed to provide technical assistance, guidance and resources to local and state jurisdictions amid the rise of fatal and nonfatal overdoses

The increase in overdoses is associated with the synthetic opioid, fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illicit substance is often found in other drugs like cocaine and pills and is not able to be detected by sight, taste, smell or touch. 

Between July and August, emergency department visits from suspected opioid-related deaths increased by 66% and emergency department visits from suspected stimulant-related overdoses increased by 50% in Nevada, according to the research group Overdose Data to Action, which partners with the CDC to give local jurisdiction overdose data.

For those looking for help, visit: behavioralhealthnv.org, to find free naloxone in Nevada, visit nvopioidresponse.org/naloxone-finder and to learn more about using fentanyl test strips, visit nvopioidresponse.org/fentanyl-test-strips. In Las Vegas, people can also visit the Harm Reduction Center or the SNHD clinic, 280 S. Decatur Blvd.

Overdose deaths have been increasing in the state, especially in Clark County, for several years.

From January 2018 to July 2022, an estimated 1,412 people died of opioid-related overdoses in Clark County with 46% of those deaths being caused by fentanyl, according to Southern Nevada Health District (SNDH).

“We want everyone to be aware that fentanyl is continuing to take a toll on the community,” said Fermin Leguen, the District Health Officer for SNDH, in a statement. 

Younger adults are at the highest risk of fentanyl-involved overdoses with the three age groups most vulnerable being 20-24, 30-34, and 25-29 years of age, according to an SNDH press release.

Preliminary data from SNDH showed a 3,900% increase in overdose deaths from 2015-2021 for those between 18 and 25. 

The Joint Advisory Task Force will also determine necessary action to reduce the risk of overdose in Nevada’s communities, and prepare responses for state and local municipalities if the increase in overdoses occurs.

“In addition to raising awareness about the risks of synthetic opioids, residents should know that there are resources available to them that can help prevent a fentanyl or opioid overdose,” Leguen said in a statement.

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism. She covered mental and behavioral health in New York for Spectrum News 1 Buffalo through the national service program, Report For America, where she won the Mental Health Advocates of WNY Advocacy Award in 2020 for her coverage on mental health stigma. She also served as an inaugural member of the Report For America Corps Advisory Board Member, 2021-2022. Previously, she reported on community issues in Las Vegas, including a long-term project on underage sex trafficking, for the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly. For the Sun, she wrote a pathbreaking investigative piece called, “Children on the Cusp: The transition from foster care to adulthood is leaving some behind.” The piece won the Nevada Press Association best investigative story of the year and named Camalot the Best Community Reporter of 2017. She also worked as a reporter for KUNV radio and is a graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Camalot was selected for National Press Foundation Opioid and Addiction Fellow 2021 and led the Syracuse Press Club's Journalism Lab as an educator from 2021-2022.