JACKSON, Miss. — In the wake of a national opioid epidemic, Mississippi is toughening its investigations of drug overdose deaths.
The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics announced this week that officials will now respond to the scene of every suspected overdose in the state in order to assist coroners and medical examiners in reporting deaths by opioid overdose.
Overdose reporting forms are also now available online as part of the Bureau’s effort. Coroners and medical examiners are required by state law to report overdose deaths to the MBN, but they previously reported by fax. With online reporting, MBN hopes to make reporting faster and simpler.
MBN Director John Dowdy said he hopes the more dogged overdose investigations will help the Bureau crack down on deadly drug dealers more quickly.
“It is vitally important to be proactive in identifying the source of illegal narcotics,” Dowdy told The Associated Press.
By immediately showing up to the scene of an overdose, Dowdy said MBN officials can launch into an investigation as soon as possible, talking to potential witnesses or recovering cell phone records to find the source of the fatal drug.
More than 50 state coroners and medical examiners comply with state overdose reporting mandates, according to the MBN, although there are 82 Mississippi coroners. Dowdy attributed this discrepancy to some counties not having “any overdoses to report,” and noted that the number of reporting coroners has nearly doubled since 2016.
According to the Bureau, 255 Mississippians were reported to have died by drug overdose in 2017.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health state of emergency in October. More than 42,000 Americans died by opioid overdose in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — five times more than in 1999.