Opioid Crisis in Ramsey County

The opioid epidemic is a national public health crisis. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioids being the most common drug. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and morphine.
Recently, Xylazine (a horse tranquilizer) has been added to the drug scene. Xylazine does not respond to Narcan®, a life-saving overdose medication. This drug is increasing the number of opioid-related deaths. More than 5,400 Minnesotans have died of opioid overdoses since 2000. As seen below, Ramsey County communities continue to be impacted by opioids.

Opioid-involved deaths in Ramsey County

Opioid-involved death data, provided quarterly (Updated 4/18/2024)
Opioid-involved death data is provided quarterly by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner. It includes preliminary data on resident and non-resident deaths occurring in Ramsey County. Data is considered preliminary because it does not include Ramsey County residents who die outside of the county and some death investigations may not be complete at the time of reporting. 

This data is updated every three months and shows trends by age, sex, race, ethnicity and substances. This data show the impacts of the opioid crisis on individuals in Ramsey County.

Opioid-involved overdose deaths

Opioid-involved overdose deaths, provided annually
Opioid-overdose death data is provided annually by the Minnesota Department of Health. This data provides the most accurate picture of opioid-involved deaths that occur within Ramsey County and of the residents who die outside of Ramsey County. This data is updated yearly.
Opioid-involved deaths among Ramsey County residents have been increasing since 2019 and are most often accidental/unintentional. 
In Minnesota, and Ramsey County, there are higher rates of opioid-related overdose deaths among American Indian and Black individuals than among white people. One of the leading causes of opioid-involved overdose deaths is associated with fentanyl-laced stimulants.

Opioid-involved overdose hospital visits 

Nonfatal opioid-involved overdoses are monitored by reviewing hospital (including emergency rooms) visit discharge codes that Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) receives from the Minnesota Hospital Association.
This data does not include some nonfatal opioid-involved overdoses due to naloxone (Narcan®) being administered in community settings when the individual does not go to an emergency room for follow-up. Narcan® is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid-involved overdose. 

Overdose emergency response

Overdose emergency response calls have remained steady since 2020. In many situations, people are treated for overdoses with Narcan® and do not call emergency help or follow-up with a hospital visit.
In 2014, Minnesota implemented an overdose Good Samaritan Law (Steve’s Law) to reduce the harms of drug use. The law provides legal protections to any person who calls 9-1-1 due to drug overdose.
Minnesota was recently part of a multistate lawsuit against multiple opioid distributors and an opioid manufacturer. Ramsey County will receive millions of dollars in settlement money over the next several years. The county has launched an Opioid Response Initiative to help people get assistance and the resources they need to recover from the misuse of opioids. The initiative will also provide education to help reduce opioid addictions in the future and ultimately reduce opioid-involved deaths and overdoses among residents.
To learn more about the Opioid Response Initiative, visit ramseycounty.us/Opioids.