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Bismarck receives nearly $1 million grant to address growing opioid crisis

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Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:03 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The staggering number of overdose deaths in the state is growing problem for first responders. 

Now, the City of Bismarck has received a nearly $1 million grant from the federal Justice Department. It is meant to address the opioid epidemic plaguing North Dakota communities.

The epidemic started with an aggressive prescription push of opioids in the 90′s.

“You know most of the people that ended up getting in trouble with opioids did so through pain management through an injury,” said Kurt Snyder, Heartview Foundation Executive Director.

Now the epidemic comes to North Dakota in the form of illicit and potent fentanyl.

“This is pretty rampant,” said Snyder.

First responders, law enforcement, and treatment specialists have been working overtime to address the issue.

“Just as I was coming up here there was another overdose,” said Bismarck Police Chief Dave Draovitch.

Law enforcement in the Bis-Man area administered 40 doses of Narcan in 2018. By 2020, that number grew to 144 doses to save 91 lives. In 2021, 17 people died from opioid overdoses.

“Now if we had 17 homicides in Bismarck people would be up in arms. They would just be going crazy and wanting my head. Not with this though, it doesn’t seem to be getting the attention. And they technically are a homicide, right? Somebody is selling an illicit substance and is causing harm to our people,” added Draovitch.

What happens now when responders get the call? “We save a lot of lives with Narcan, but also those people walk out [of the emergency room] in active withdrawal. They’re now at more risk for a fatal overdose,” added Snyder.

Now, responders hope to use more than $900,000 over three years for a comprehensive program that fills the gap between emergency room care and release as well as providing other resources.

“We would then build a bridge of active people, employees, that would be in the emergency room to move those people once they are in the emergency room right into services. So, we are really excited about this because we think we can stop a revolving door,” said Snyder.

Currently, six to eight people in the Bis-Man area end up in the emergency room for an opioid overdose each week.

Bismarck police, Sanford Health, and Heartview Foundation will work together to administer the program.

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