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Interview: Alcohol, Drugs Fuel Rise In Death Rates Among White Valley Residents

New data from an on-going study about mortality rates in Central California reveals that alcohol, drugs and suicide are fueling significant increases in the mortality rate among white residents. The data are staggering: deaths from accidental drug poisoning in Fresno County are up over 200 percent since 1990, while suicides by hanging and strangulation are up over 120 percent in the region. And white residents in the region are dying at a significantly higher rate than in the rest of California. 

So what's behind the numbers in what researchers are calling "deaths of despair?" And how are these issues impacting other demographic groups in the valley? We spoke with two members of the team that produced the report, Dr. Steven Woolf, lead author of the study and director of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Anthony Iton, Vice President of the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities project. 

Editor's note: The California Endowment, which helped fund this research also is a funder of Valley Public Radio and other public radio stations. 

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.