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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - Minnesota experienced a spike in drug overdose deaths during the first half of this year that coincided with the arrival of the pandemic.

A new report from the state health department shows there were 490 drug overdose deaths in Minnesota from January through June. That is up 31-percent when compared to the first six months of 2019.

The report also indicates overdose deaths began to sharply increase in March when 87 were recorded and peaked in May at 105. By comparison, there were 51 drug overdose deaths in Minnesota in March of last year and 65 were reported in May 2019.

Minnesota Dept. of Health

“Deaths due to overdoses are preventable even amid all the troubles we’ve had this year,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “We need to work together to find ways to better support those suffering from substance use disorders, but it is important to know that there are resources available and those resources can still be accessed safely even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.”

Health department statistics show the spike that began in March was linked to an increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths, which accounted for about 80-percent of all opioid-involved overdose deaths during that time span. Minnesotans between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced the largest increase in overdose deaths and accounted for 128 of the fatalities in the first half of 2020. The report also notes that drug overdose deaths increased in both urban and rural areas. There was a 29-percent rise in the Twin Cities area, while drug overdose deaths were up 36-percent in Greater Minnesota.

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