University of Arizona and AZDHS Awarded $2.2M to Reduce Opioid Deaths in Rural AZ

Jan 22, 2018

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services have partnered on a $2.2 million grant to train first responders in rural Arizona in the fight against the opioid epidemic.  For the Arizona Science Desk, Maya Springhawk Robnett reports…

"If we were seeing two people a day dying of a thing like Ebola virus or Zika virus, I suspect there would be a whole different level of urgency." - Dr. Dan Derksen

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration granted the funding to be used over a four-year period.  The University of Arizona Center for Rural Health will train first responders to recognize the symptoms of opioid abuse and to administer Naloxone, the drug used to counter opioid overdoses. 

Dr. Dan Derksen, the Center’s Director, said they intend to create a statewide Naloxone distribution system.  The Center will also hold meetings for citizens to give input and get information.

“If we were seeing two people a day dying of a thing like Ebola virus or Zika virus, I suspect there would be a whole different level of urgency,” Derksen said,”But I think our urgency should be as high for this because two people a day are dying in Arizona of opioid-related overdoses.”

La Paz Regional Medical Center and Parker Indian Health Center are listed as two of the fourteen “critical access hospitals”—or hospitals with less than 25 beds and at least 35 miles from another facility—that will be the focus of the grant.  The Health Resources Services Administration has identified La Paz County as one of the five highest areas of opioid use, overdose, and overdose death in Arizona.