SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A major health care system serving the upper Midwest says that the number of opioid pills it prescribes has fallen by almost a quarter.

South Dakota-headquartered Sanford Health started analyzing its prescribing last year to direct its response to rising opioid and heroin overdose deaths.

Doug Griffin spearheaded the system's data collection as vice president and medical officer for Sanford in Fargo, North Dakota. Griffin says Sanford also took steps including mandating opioid education for providers and using its electronic health record system to alert doctors about safe prescribing habits.

Sanford has since seen reductions in pills prescribed and prescriptions written. Sanford providers wrote 18 percent fewer prescriptions for opioids in the third quarter of 2017 compared to the first quarter of 2016, amounting to 24 percent fewer pills prescribed.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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