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State officials work to prevent opioid overdoses

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  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 2016

    The CHOW Project, in collaboration with University Health Partners of Hawai’i, distributed kits to the people at risk of an opioid overdose.

In response to a growing opioid “crisis,” government officials are coordinating a statewide plan to combat overdoses, the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Hawaii.

Drug overdoses, which account for 23 percent of all fatal injuries in Hawaii, have been the leading cause of injury-related death for the past decade, according to the Health Department. Hawaii ranks No. 43 among the states for drug overdose deaths.

“Our objective is to get ahead of the opioid addiction crisis that’s a problem across the nation,” state Department of Health Director Ginny Pressler said at a news conference Wednesday. “The major focus that we have as we address the opioid crisis has to do with addressing it as a chronic disease … so that we can really treat it appropriately and get at the root causes of the addiction problem.”

The state recently received more than $10 million in federal grants to address the opioid addiction problem and is working to improve prevention and treatment programs. One such program would expand access for health care professionals, first responders and social services workers to drugs that counter an opioid overdose. Officials are also considering creating drug take-back programs at pharmacies statewide so patients could give back unused opioids to prevent them from circulating in the community.

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