BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum today expressed their gratitude and support for efforts by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration to end the nation’s opioid epidemic.
During a visit to Fargo today, Sessions reiterated that ending America’s drug crisis is a top priority for President Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice. Approximately 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2016 – the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history, the Attorney General said.
Sessions announced the unsealing of two indictments charging additional defendants in a drug conspiracy case involving fentanyl allegedly shipped from China – an investigation that began with the tragic overdose death of a teenager in Grand Forks, N.D. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl killed 20,000 Americans in 2016, Sessions said.
“We have witnessed the devastating effects of fentanyl and opioid overdoses on our families and communities right here in North Dakota and across the nation,” Burgum said, noting drug overdose deaths in North Dakota more than tripled from 2013 to 2016, from 20 to 77. “Kathryn and I stand by Attorney General Sessions and the Trump administration in our commitment to fighting this epidemic through prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement efforts.”
North Dakota has taken important steps to address drug overdoses and addiction, Sessions noted, including the nation’s first year-round, statewide prescription drug disposal take back program, started in 2009. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, April 28.
In January, Burgum established the Office of Recovery Reinvented to support strategic efforts to strengthen recovery services and eliminate the shame and stigma of the disease of addiction in North Dakota. Training on how to administer naloxone – a prescription medication that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose – and doses of naloxone were made available to hundreds of people who attended the Recovery Reinvented addiction summit last September and the first-ever Day for Prevention hosted earlier this month by the North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS). Of the 4,100 naloxone doses made available through DHS with federal funding targeting opioids, more than 3,000 doses have been distributed, and DHS can assist with additional requests.
Burgum also signed an executive order last September directing cabinet agencies to collaborate with law enforcement and local and tribal governments to make naloxone available to first responders, community leaders and individual opioid users and their family members.
For more information, visit www.recoveryreinvented.com. The DHS Behavioral Health Division also has developed a web-based toolkit at https://prevention.nd.gov/get-involved to assist communities in assessing, planning, and implementing effective prevention strategies.
On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C.-based Addiction Policy Forum honored First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum with its Pillar of Excellence award on Wednesday for her advocacy work with addiction and recovery.