DES MOINES, Iowa -- For nearly the last decade, opioids have tightening their grip on Iowa, that's until now.
"From 2016 to 12017 we had a 14 - percent increase so to go from a reduction a year later that`s a big win," says Kevin Gabbert, Iowa Department of Health Opioid Initiatives.
For the first time since the Iowa Department of Public Health began keeping track of opioid related deaths in 2000, the number of deaths have decreased, dropping 35 - percent over an eight month period so far this year according to a preliminary report released Wednesday.
"We've been approaching this issue as a prevention issue because we don't want to become like other states who have experienced significant opioid deaths," says Gabbert. "Those states tend to have a harder process to help reverse that trend."
Health officials say the availability of overdose reversing drugs like Narcan and the state's prescription monitoring program have helped play a role in the decline.
As a result, pharmacists are seeing a draw back in the number of opioid prescribed. Mercy Medical Center outpatient pharmacist, Arica Peters says, "A lot of the insurance companies within the last 6 months are rejecting more prescriptions. Especially if they are of a higher quantity or high dosage. They want them to be a smaller dose for a shorter period of time." She adds, insurance companies are no longer paying for medication over a certain day supply.
Those efforts along with drug drop off bins are helping to curb the opioid epidemic, one health officials hope continues to trend downward.
"We have to keep our foot on the accelerator. Keep doing what were doing by making Narcan available, community support efforts and the expansion of medicate accepting treatments," says Gabbert.
The finalized report won't be released until next summer. In 2017, 206 people died from opioid - related deaths.