Oftentimes, when Americans think about the major drug issues affecting the country, they picture people who live far away. In fact, the opioid crisis is occurring in your own backyard as well – metaphorically, if not literally. So today we’re talking about the drug crisis in Missouri, our home state. Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise, heroin use has rapidly increased, and just this week, police conducted the largest fentanyl seizure in Missouri history. Drug abuse affects people of every age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic level, so it is important to understand how to identify drug abuse and help people struggling with addiction.
The Drug Crisis in Missouri
Our country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and opioid abuse has surged in the Show-Me State in the past decade, increasing by 137 percent. Take a look at the following statistics:
- According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, of the approximately 38,600 overdose deaths that occurred in the United States in 2015 due to opioids, nearly 800 occurred in Missouri.
- According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control in July 2017, rural areas in Missouri have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic – particularly northern Missouri, the southeast corner of the state, and many counties surrounding Springfield (source). Why are rural areas so heavily affected? Experts believe this may be due to rural areas having older populations, more physically demanding jobs, and fewer options for pain relief (such as physical therapy and surgery).
- According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, in 2011 and 2012, they seized between 100 and 200 grams of heroin. By 2016, they seized over 41,000 grams.
- Just last weekend, the largest seizure of fentanyl occurred in Missouri. During a routine traffic stop, police searched a vehicle and found 4.8 pounds of pure fentanyl. For a reference, coming in contact with as little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly (source).
Addressing the Drug Crisis
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
One of the ways in which the government hopes to reduce opioid abuse is through the prescription drug monitoring program, which was announced in July 2017. Previously, Missouri was the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program. The program will identify suspicious patterns of prescriptions of controlled substances, including opioids. Doctors and pharmacists will not have access to the database, however, so some question how effective it will be.
The Division of Offender Rehabilitative Services, working with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Gateway Foundation, and Corizon Health, is making it easier for offenders to access Medication-Assisted Treatment prior to release (source). To learn more about this treatment method, its stigma, and its success, check out our previous blog post.
Some counties, such as Reynolds County in the Ozarks, are also focusing on education. By educating residents about opioids and other dangerous drugs, the health department hopes to prevent people from becoming addicted. The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control also conducts education programs at schools, businesses, and various organizations throughout Missouri (source).
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
All Americans are encouraged to properly dispose of unused and unneeded prescription drugs. When drugs are not properly secured within the home, they may end up in the wrong hands, so it’s beneficial to remove any unneeded drugs from your house and dispose of them safely. The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day program, which occurs twice each year, allows people to anonymously turn in their unused or expired prescription medications for disposal. The next event will occur on April 28, 2018.
Drug and Alcohol Task Forces
Drug and alcohol task forces have assembled throughout Missouri to identify opportunities for substance abuse and overdose prevention in their communities. To learn more about our state’s community coalitions, visit the website of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
John Elkins, Vice President of Business Growth at Tomo Drug Testing, is on the Christian County Coalition on Substance Misuse. The State of Missouri recently recognized the group as a coalition, which opens it up to a wide variety of grants for funding. Missouri State Representative Lynn Morris of District 140 created the coalition. Morris owns Family Pharmacy, which is based in Ozark and serves much of southwest Missouri.
Though previously termed a “task force,” the group changed its name based on feedback received from a recovering addict, who said the term is unwelcoming to addicts, making them think of guns and badges. The group also selected the term “substance misuse” with care. “Substance” can refer to drugs or alcohol, and “misuse” is softer than “addiction” and more compassionate than “abuse.”
The coalition’s first major undertaking starts this week. Members of the group will be putting on a program for all of the third graders in Christian County. The project will begin in Sparta and Chadwick, move to Ozark, Nixa, and Spokane/Highlandville, and then finish in Clever near the end of April. At the recommendation of teachers and counselors, the coalition will reach out to the third graders, not to speak about drug abuse, but to explain the difference between medicine and drug misuse. The children will also be taught how to identify and notify a “safe person,” someone they can trust when they need to ask questions or report suspicious activity without feeling scared or embarrassed. As a part of the program, each student will receive a coloring book and a chance to enter a coloring contest.
The Community Partnership of the Ozarks (CPO) has been a valuable resource for the group. CPO will be able to help the coalition apply for grants, as well as improve their marketing efforts, and they have even extended the talents of an intern who works for them.
Keep an eye out for the Christian County Coalition on Substance Misuse in the coming months. The group will be getting the message out via community outreach venues, such as a booth at the Christian County Fair this summer.
Other tactics of reducing opioid abuse in Missouri include establishing strategies to enhance the treatment process, dispersing Narcan at probation and parole offices, and conducting a fetal alcohol education program. To learn more about the state’s response to the drug crisis in Missouri, visit the website of the Department of Corrections.
We encourage you to stay ahead of the opioid epidemic by establishing a new or updating a current drug and alcohol policy in your workplace. If you’re looking to implement a drug-free workplace through drug and alcohol testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!