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Killer Crisis: SD taking several measures to tackle opioid problem

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota is taking a multi-pronged approach to address drug and opioid use, particularly as both arrests and overdose deaths continue to rise.

Statewide, overdose deaths jumped from 32 in 2013 to 51 in 2016, the most recent year data was available, while drug arrests increased 147 percent between 2007 and 2016.

Marty Jackley, the South Dakota attorney general, said large shipments of opioids on the black market pose a major problem and contributes to accidental overdoses.

To address the opioid crisis, Jackley and other state leaders want to focus on stronger prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts.

The Attorney General's Office launched Project Stand Up, which allows residents to anonymously text the word "drugs" to the number 82257 before answer a few questions to report crime, the name of the suspect or suspects and if any photos are available.

In the first six months of the effort, 244 suspects have been identified in 69 different communities in South Dakota and the number is climbing, Jackley said.

"We have had many arrests linked to these tips," Jackley said. "It's been very successful."

Jackley said the other two prongs in the three-pronged approach—prevention and treatment—include programming in high schools across the state, working with health care institutions and using drug courts to get people into inpatient or outpatient treatment.

In January, Jackley said he plans to offer legislation during the next state Legislature to attack opioid problems, but declined to share details yet.

Tom Martinec, deputy secretary for the South Dakota Department of Health, said the state is working to make naloxone more accessible. So far, about 500 people statewide have been trained to administer the the drug that reverses the overdose effect of an opioid.

In addition, the Health Department is partnering with the state medical association to "change the mindset of doctors" about prescribing painkillers, Martinec said.

"A lot of this has to do with some training and messaging about appropriate use," he said.

Further, lawmakers passed a "good samaritan" law to grant immunity for people who assist another person in need of emergency assistance, as long as that person remains at the scene and cooperates with first responders and law enforcement.