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Missouri Statewide Numbers Show Opioid Overdose Deaths Could Exc - KOAM TV 7

Missouri Statewide Numbers Show Opioid Overdose Deaths Could Exceed Traffic Fatalities; Local Officials Expect Situation to Worsen

Updated:
Joplin, MO -

Health officials say a new report further points to how how a growing epidemic is destroying family and friendships.  The number of fatal opioid overdoses this year in Missouri could exceed traffic fatalities.

Dale Owen is Newton County's coroner.  Death doesn't surprise him.  Statistics sometimes do.

"It's a very disheartening thought," says Owen.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 142 more people have fatally overdosed on opioids so far this year than have died in vehicle wrecks.  There have been 733 opioid overdose deaths so far this year, and 591 traffic deaths.

"A good portion of those are preventable deaths," says Owen.

Narcan, a drug meant to reserve the effects of opioids, is now available over the counter at Missouri pharmacies.

"If a 14-year-old walks into my pharmacy and wants it, I'm going to give it to him," says Tim Mitchell of Mitchell's Pharmacy in Neosho.  "That 14-year-old might be the only one in the family who is not abusing opioids."

"I am pleased that it's (Narcan) there.  Obviously it's going to save some lives," says Owen.

Owen worries that an emergency drug like Narcan to save lives won't get rid of opioid addictions.

"We finally have begun to see in some of the other addiction types, like smoking, alcohol....its been a long-term exercise in trying to get information out to people and reiterating there are other options," says Owen.

...Options like not becoming a statistic.

There were 908 opioid overdose deaths in Missouri last year.

Local coroners and emergency responders say they believe the opioid epidemic is making its way from the Springfield area to extreme Southwest Missouri.  

Mitchell's Drug Store in Neosho will have an opioid summit next week, where the public can learn how to administer Narcan.

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