Health Departments across the state of Missouri have announced support of the recent executive order by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens targeting the growing opiod epidemic.

Scotland County Health Department Director Margaret Curry shared a state health department release, highlighting the fact the opioid crisis in Missouri has reached epidemic proportions.

According to the state health department, in 2016, there were 908 opioid- or heroin-related deaths in the state a 35% increase over 2015.

An average of 2.5 people overdosed and died every day last year, compared with 1.8 the year before. One out of every 66 deaths in the state was due to opioid or opiate abuse in 2016 – a significant increase from 2015 when one out of every 89 deaths were opioid-related.

St. Louis County is one of the hardest-hit parts of the state. In 2016, 237 overdoses were attributed to heroin, prescription drug abuse or synthesized opioids such as fentanyl. In 2015, that number was ­­­141, indicating a 68% increase. In the City of St. Louis, there were 182 such overdoses in 2016 compared to 93 the year before—a 96% increase.

“We are incredibly appreciative that Governor Greitens has signed an executive order today instructing us to institute a prescription drug monitoring program,” said Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director Randall Williams, MD. “The department will be entering into agreements with private companies to perform sophisticated analyses of the prescribing and dispensing data they hold. We think this is a better iteration of present models which can impose burdens on those who are doing what they’re supposed to do, and allows us to focus on those who are perpetuating the crisis.

“Governor Greitens has charged his cabinet with taking a coordinated, integrated and innovative approach to helping all those families and individuals affected by the opioids crisis,” he continued. “We have traveled throughout the state and listened to the many ways this has affected Missourians; it is our goal to help people not face this challenge alone.”

This collaborative initiative is being launched with a series of nine Opioid Summits around the state, designed to bring awareness to the issue, spur innovative action and address the specific problems found in different communities throughout Missouri.

The kick-off summit was held in Springfield on July 20. Led by Dr. Williams, the summit was an opportunity for leaders from a variety of sectors—first responders, health care, the faith community, nonprofits and government—to discuss the opioid crisis and the best interventions moving forward, while taking in feedback from the community members most affected by the crisis.

Confirmed city and locations for additional Opioid Summits:

September 6: Poplar Bluff, Mount Calvary Powerhouse Church, 1875 Speedway Dr, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901

September 12: Cape Girardeau, Show Me Center, 1333 N Sprigg St, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701

October 17: Joplin, Missouri Southern State University, 3950 Newman Rd, Joplin, MO 64801

November 7: Kirksville, Truman State University, 100 E Normal St, Kirksville, MO 63501

November 29: Columbia, Courtyard by Marriot, 3301 Lemone Industrial Blvd. Columbia, MO 65201

St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Kansas City dates and locations to be determined.