Nebraska is getting ahead of the opioid crisis

LINCOLN, Neb. 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, that's according to federal statistics.

Photo of loose opioid pills. (Credit CBS News)

It's startling but not something being felt as much as we once thought in Nebraska. The Department of Health and Human Services data shows that Nebraska ranks last or second to last in per-capita drug overdose deaths.

Governor Pete Ricketts says he’s incredibly proud of how proactive Nebraska and its legislators have been in the opioid crisis but that there is still work to be done.

In 2017, 152 Nebraskans died from a drug overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 59 of those were opioid related.

“Depending upon which stat you look at Nebraska is ranked anywhere from 49th to 50th in opioid related deaths, 50th being the very best. For example Missouri, which is right next door, is 18th,” said Jeff Kahrs, the Regional Director for Health and Human Services.

Kahrs says a lot of that has to do with programs put in place under Attorney General Doug Peterson and Governor Pete Ricketts.

"What we've done is put in place a prescription drug monitoring program,” said Ricketts. “In fact we were one of the first states to require all drugs to be put in that program. What that allows us to do is really look for patients who are doctor shopping to get those opioids and for doctors who are maybe over-prescribing."

Governor Ricketts says that while Nebraska continues be a leader in opioid addiction and death prevention he will continue to work to educate the public.

"We’ve also taken limits in our Medicaid program on how opioids can be dispensed,” said Ricketts. “We’ve done public service campaigns, and given law enforcement the naloxone so they can protect themselves and help with overdoses. We’ve taken a number of proactive steps to help with this crisis."

Nebraska also requires a photo ID when picking up a prescription opioids as well as a seven-day duration cap on a prescription for an opioid issued to anyone under the age of 19.