West Virginia

WV data research uncovers opportunity for overdose intervention

West Virginia leads the nation in overdose deaths per capita, and researchers are working to understand how and why the state has been hit so hard during the last few years.

Newly published research has uncovered some potentially useful insights for addressing the epidemic. As reported by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, more than 90% of all overdose victims had had some contact with state services. In fact, 71% of all decedents utilized emergency medical services within the 12 months prior to their death.

“The report clearly identifies factors that we can now say contribute to the ‘profile of an overdosed person’ in West Virginia, highlighting opportunities for intervention in the 12 months prior to their death,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Governor Jim Justice has directed DHHR to utilize all available resources to combat this epidemic. Since the analysis shows numerous missed opportunities, we now need to use these data to target specific interventions to help save lives of West Virginians.”

Other data from the report found that:

• Decedents were much more likely to have Medicaid (71%) in the 12 months prior to their
death as compared to West Virginia’s adult population ages 19-64 (23%).

• Over half (56%) of all decedents were ever incarcerated. Decedents were at an increased
risk of death in the 30 days after their date of release, especially in decedents with only
some high school education.

• Males working in blue collar industry, industries that come with higher risk of injury,
may be at increased risk for overdose death.

• Overall, there were opportunities to prevent fatal overdoses among the 2016 overdose
decedents. Emergency services appear to have had the most opportunity for intervention,
followed by the CSMP and Corrections.

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To learn more about the West Virginia Fatality Analysis report, please visit the West Virginia DHHR.

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