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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A soaring number of fentanyl-related deaths pushed overall drug overdose deaths in Minnesota up 27 percent last year.

The Minnesota Department of Health says just over 1000 fatal drug overdoses were reported in the state in 2020 compared with just under 800 in 2019. The number of those deaths involving opioids rose nearly 60 percent, while drug overdose deaths associated with synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, were up over 80 percent.

“Minnesota families are struggling, and the overdose deaths in 2020 are a terrible reminder that those struggles can result in preventable deaths,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “The year has been unprecedented in so many ways, and the staggering number of drug overdose deaths shows the need to amplify our prevention efforts and strengthen the ability of communities to support people and connect them with services.”

The health department report indicates overdose deaths involving commonly prescribed opioids increased 53 percent and heroin overdose deaths rose 15 percent. Officials note the deaths blamed on the use of commonly prescribed opioids had declined in both 2018 and 2019.

Overdose deaths involving non-opioids were also up significantly. Methamphetamine overdoses took nearly 330 lives, which is an increase of almost 45 percent from the previous year. Drug overdose fatalities involving cocaine were up over 40 percent and those associated with sedatives like Valium and Xanax increased 70 percent.

“The last year has been incredibly challenging and demonstrates the need for increased public health measures,” said Dana Farley, MDH drug overdose prevention supervisor. “Prevention tools such as access to naloxone, linkages to care and overdose fatality reviews improve our understanding of why people are using drugs and lead to recovery and saved lives.”

State officials stress that support and resources are available to anyone facing addiction and/or considering suicide. They urge anyone in crisis to use their phone or other connections to reach out for help. A list of resources is available through Support for Addiction Recovery during Covid-19. They include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-TALK (8255) or text MN to 741741.

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As of April 7, 2021, there are 28 children missing from across Minnesota and have still not been found, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If you have seen any of them, or have any information on their whereabouts, please don’t hesitate to call 911 or you can call the National Center at 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST).