State agencies tackle opioid epidemic with actions resulting from Gov. Burgum’s executive order

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 9:30am

BISMARCK, N.D. – State agencies are expanding the fight against North Dakota’s opioid epidemic through several actions stemming from an executive order signed recently by Gov. Doug Burgum.

The order, signed Sept. 26 in conjunction with the Recovery Reinvented addiction summit hosted by the governor and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, directed 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.

Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse the symptoms associated with opioid overdose in emergency situations. Those attending the summit received training in naloxone administration and two single-dose kits of the medication. Within days, two parents who had attended Recovery Reinvented and received naloxone were able to administer it to their son and revive the young man before first responders arrived.

“Opioid addiction and overdoses are having a devastating impact on North Dakota families, businesses and communities, and we need to utilize every tool available across state government to reverse this deeply disturbing trend,” Burgum said, noting drug-related overdose deaths tripled in North Dakota from 2013 to 2015. “These agency actions are a significant step toward finding solutions across the full continuum of care: prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.”

The actions include:

  • Effective immediately, training on how to administer naloxone will be provided by the North Dakota Highway Patrol to all new law enforcement officers who attend basic training at the Law Enforcement Training Academy. The Highway Patrol also is developing a naloxone training initiative for all current law enforcement officers statewide.
  • The North Dakota Department of Health is developing video-based naloxone training. Currently, all EMS personnel have the ability to manage respiratory depression associated with opioid overdose, and about 3 in 4 ambulance services in North Dakota either carry naloxone or have staff trained to administer it. The department hopes to reach 100 percent through distance-learning training, grant funding and, if necessary, the development of administrative and regulatory requirements.
  • The North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS) is providing naloxone and training to licensed substance abuse treatment programs in North Dakota as well as to the Highway Patrol as part of its statewide distribution.
  • DHS also is providing $200,000 to the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop and implement a program to boost access to medication-assisted treatment and naloxone for those with an opioid use disorder in state correctional facilities.

“Naloxone can literally mean the difference between life and death for someone overdosing on opioids, giving them a second chance to seek recovery,” Helgaas Burgum said. “Offering more training and expanded access to naloxone throughout the community aligns with our goals of eliminating the shame and stigma of addiction and treating it like the chronic disease that it is.”

In addition, DHS announced that each of the four American Indian tribes headquartered in North Dakota will receive $70,000 through a community grant program for evidence-based opioid prevention and treatment. The Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation each submitted plans for efforts that will run from Nov. 1, 2017, through April 15, 2018.

The funding will come from a $2 million grant awarded to North Dakota in April by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce and prevent opioid abuse and overdose deaths. The same grant is supporting an all-day training session Thursday at the State Capitol on the role of prevention in addressing opioid overdose. About 40 attendees are expected, including community and tribal grantees, local public health unit staffers and community members interested in the topic.

For more information on addiction, recovery and resources, visit