State health officials have expressed concern after the latest figures showed continued growth in the number of suicides and opioid overdoses in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department for Health released the latest figures – which date from 2017 – that show the total number of deaths linked to opioids, alcohol and suicide.
Alcohol-related deaths fell very slightly, down 5 compared to 2016, but 2017 saw 40 more suicides and 46 more fatal opioid overdoses.
MDH notes that since 2000, deaths from opioids, alcohol and suicide have steadily increased, matching a trend seen nationally.
In 2017, there were 422 deaths from opioids, 636 from alcohol and 783 by suicide.
The Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said that one of the key factors in the worrying trend is "lack of social connectedness and opportunity."
"Our overall health is determined by many factors, and one of the most important is the health of our communities," she said.
"Things like job opportunities, good education and social connection each play a role in the health of individuals, families and communities. That means strengthening our community is an important step toward addressing these health challenges."
The MDH notes that efforts are underway to reduce the number of deaths from these three causes, including rolling out mental health and chemical treatment options for tribal members – among whom the rate of death is higher than the rest of the state.
The further rollout of naloxone to counter opioid overdoses is also being tapped as a way of reducing deaths, while MDH notes that several local authorities have been trialing "fatality review teams" that look into the factors that caused a person's suicide or overdose, in the hope it provides clues as to how to prevent more in the future.
One Minnesota city, Little Falls, was featured in Buzzfeed News recently for its efforts in combating opioid addiction and overdoses by spending state money to treat opioid addiction as a disease, rather than a crime.
You can read the feature here, with some of the programs implemented including limiting prescription refills, increasing access to addiction medications, and putting addicts in treatment instead of jail.