Albert Lang, spokesman for Trust For America’s Health, says Nebraska’s numbers in all three categories over the past few years are among the lowest in the country, though there’s always room to improve.
“In Nebraska, one of the biggest problems they have, similar to a lot of states in the Midwest, is alcohol deaths,” Lang says. “We saw a 10% increase in the state but the number was somewhat low compared to the Northeast or the West. Only about 1 death per 100,000 increase from 2015 to 2016. That’s pretty good in the grand scheme of things.”
“The suicide deaths are a little more disconcerting,” Lang says. “They went up by about the same amount, 10%, but combining the alcohol and suicide is something we see and if you add them together, that’s about 25 deaths per 100,000 people attributed to alcohol or suicide and we know a lot of these can be prevented with the right kind of intervention.”
While it’s not a critical issue now, the report projects that Nebraska’s drug, alcohol and suicide death rate could rise by 34-percent in the next decade.
“Synthetic opioids are becoming cheap and more available and they’re far more deadly than the prescription drugs and other kinds of opioids people were using five or six years ago,” Lang says. “It just takes a very small amount for someone to overdose on them.”
The national figures in the report look bleak. Alcohol, drug and suicide deaths increased at a record pace in 2016 — by 11-percent — and represent more than 14,000 additional deaths over 2015. For two years in a row, increases in these deaths have been at record highs.
“Drug deaths in Nebraska remain low,” Lang says. “It’s 7.7 per 100,000 people and it was just a 4% increase, so very negligible.” Overall, he says Nebraska’s death rate for all three, suicide, alcohol and drugs, is the third-lowest in the country, behind only Texas and Mississippi.
The study is being released by the non-profit, non-partisan Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.