As Minnesota has grappled with its share of the nationwide opioid epidemic, state health officials have taken some solace in the fact that the number of opioid-related prescriptions, addictions and deaths has been considerably lower here than in states at the epicenter such as West Virginia and Kentucky.
However, a new federal analysis puts Minnesota at the same level as these states in one key measure: high rates of young and old patients hospitalized for opioid-related conditions.
Minnesota’s rate of opioid-related hospital admissions for residents 24 and younger was seventh-highest in the nation. Minnesota also had the seventh-highest rate of senior citizens hospitalized for opioid-related conditions, ranging from emergency overdoses to addiction treatment.
The state’s rate of opioid-related hospitalizations in the younger age category was 106 per 100,000 residents, compared to a rate of 112 per 100,000 in Kentucky, the federal analysis showed. That doesn’t make sense, at least on the surface, considering the number of drug overdose deaths was 581 in Minnesota and 1,273 in Kentucky in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The hospital figures were surprising enough that leaders at the Minnesota Hospital Association did their own analysis after seeing the report.
A high rate of hospitalizations would be “out of character” given Minnesota’s lower opioid death numbers and its lower overall utilization of inpatient admissions for medical care, said Mark Sonneborn, the association’s vice president for health information and analytics.
What is clear from the association’s own analysis is that inpatient hospitalization for opioid-related conditions is increasing in Minnesota. There were 583 hospital admissions of patients 65 and older for opioid-related treatment in the state in 2008, but 1,811 in 2015, the association found.
Sonneborn said he will ask hospital leaders statewide why Minnesota appears to be more aggressive than other states in admitting patients with opioid-related conditions.
The high hospitalization rate also surprised leaders at the Minnesota Department of Health, which contributed data to the federal analysis. But Health Department spokesman Scott Smith said it isn’t unprecedented for a state to have a low death rate but a high hospitalization rate for a particular condition. The epidemiologies of falls that result in deaths and injuries and of completed vs. attempted suicides are examples.
“Hospitalized cases are not necessarily just less severe cases of the fatalities,” Smith said. “These can be different phenomenon.”