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Surge in opioid and fentanyl overdoses seen in Montana

Posted at 8:04 AM, Feb 21, 2022

GREAT FALLS — Montana has seen a surge in opioid and fentanyl overdoses over the last several years and it has officials concerned.

A January 2022 news release from Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen says Montana experienced a 116% increase in fentanyl-related deaths from 2019 to 2020.

The release goes on to say Lewis & Clark County emergency staff had to revive nine people within several days last month due to heroin overdoses.

They believe the drugs were laced with fentanyl, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is about 50 times more powerful than morphine.

MTN reported on the overdoses and talked with Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, who said: “Please get the message out there. You can seek treatment at St. Peter’s Hospital. They’re not judging. We’re trying to get the word out to save people’s lives.”

The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) released information saying that between Jan. 11 and Jan. 20 of this year, Kalispell emergency crews had five fentanyl overdose cases.

DPHHS also provided recommendations for health departments and EMS to help reduce overdoses.

In Great Falls, a group called The Sober Life is working to reduce overdoses and raise awareness. They say providing more access to naloxone will help as it reverses overdoses.

Director Thomas Risburg sees a need to fix temporary solutions and find ways to permanently help people recover from overdoses.

“There’s no question that opioid use is up across the state of Montana. You have folks that are used to getting x dosage and they’re overdosing because they have no idea that fentanyl has been mixed into it,” Risburg said.

Thomas Risburg

Risberg says the Cascade City-County Health Department has free naloxone for those that need it. He added that having it available for free will help save more lives.

“It will reverse an opioid overdose including one from fentanyl. And so that’s typically a nasal spray. It’s very effective if you have it on hand and it’s used quickly. We need these folks to feel connected to a community, to not feel stigmatized and to not have judgment. And what we need are solutions that fix these core issues.”

Link on naloxone standing order:
News release from Knudsen:
DPHHS info sheet:
Sober life/AFY links: