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Nearly 500 Nevada deaths connected to opioids in 2020; state assembling panel to address problem |

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Nearly 500 Nevada deaths connected to opioids in 2020; state assembling panel to address problem

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) -- After nearly 500 Nevada deaths blamed on opioids in 2020, the state is assembling a Substance Use Response Working Group.

The 484 deaths in 2020 represent a 40% increase in opioid related overdose deaths over 2019, increasing from 374 to 484. It's the highest number of opioid deaths on record in Nevada. The previous peak was 460 deaths in 2011.

The largest increase in overdose deaths was attributed to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, with 246 of the 484 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. While many people think of prescription painkillers as the root of the problem, law enforcement officials have warned that illegally manufactured pills have been a big problem.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford put out the call to experts who want to serve in the working group in a Thursday news release.

“Substance abuse is not an easy problem to tackle, and I’m looking for Nevadans who are experts in their field to join me in this important effort,” Ford said.

“Health challenges, job loss, food insecurity, and isolation may be contributing to the spike in opioid overdoses both here at home and all over the country this past year, and I’m eager to work alongside members of my Substance Use Response Working Group to educate the community and improve our response to opioid abuse.”

The Attorney General's Office will appoint eight members to the panel, which was created as part of Assembly Bill 274, passed by the 2021 Legislature.

The purpose of the group is to develop recommendations to improve Nevada's substance use prevention and response efforts. Appointed members will study evidence-based strategies in prevention and intervention, and evaluate the effect of substance use on Nevada's criminal justice system, educational institutions, and the economy.

Synthetic opioid overdose deaths now account for over 50% of opioid related overdose deaths in Nevada. Fentanyl related overdose deaths increased six-fold since 2010 from 39 to 246 in 2020.

The working group will consist of the following members:

  • A healthcare provider with expertise in medicine for the treatment of substance use disorders
  • An advocate for persons who have substance use disorders and family members of such persons
  • One person who is in recovery from a substance use disorder
  • One person who provides services relating to the treatment of substance use disorders
  • One representative of a substance use disorder prevention coalition
  • One representative of a program to reduce the harm caused by substance misuse
  • One representative of a hospital
  • One representative of a school district

Members are appointed for 2-year terms and not compensated for their time.

Those interested in serving should email our office at AGInquiries@ag.nv.gov with their name, contact information, and indicate which category they are eligible for.