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Blackfeet Nation declares state of emergency over opioid overdoses

The Blackfeet Nation has declared a state of emergency to address a series of opioid overdoses and deaths attributed to fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid.

The tribe's declaration states there were 17 opioid overdoses and four deaths on the Blackfeet Reservation in just a week’s time.

The Blackfeet Nation is forming a task force led by tribal law enforcement and behavioral health officials to craft recommendations on how to deal with the growing issue and will report back to the tribal council.

Recently, Montana law enforcement has found fentanyl in counterfeit prescription pills. Methamphetamine is increasingly laced with the powerful drug.

State law enforcement officials say the number of deaths related to fentanyl overdoses nearly tripped across Montana from 2016 to 2020.

All deaths related to opioid overdose have increased at similar rates, according to a state health department analysis of the most recent data. That report shows Indigenous Montanans are dying from drug overdoses at nearly three times the rate of white Montanans.

According to another state health department report, Indigenous people accounted for nearly a quarter of all 911 responses to suspected opioid overdoses last year, despite making up seven percent of the state population.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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