The Opioid Epidemic in Kansas City

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Missouri increased by 31.8% between 2015 and 2016. Opioid abuse is a serious problem all around the country, but Missouri is facing increases that are more severe than other states. Missouri politicians are expressing concern about the rise of opioid abuse in Kansas City, and many drug specialists are trying to find ways to combat the crisis.

Opioid Overdoses in Missouri

The leading cause of accidental death in Missouri is a drug overdose. Between 2014 and 2016, 29 Missouri counties saw more drug-related fatalities than motor vehicle fatalities. The counties with high rates of drug overdoses account for 70% of the Missouri population.

Kansas City is one of the areas that the opioid epidemic is hitting the hardest. People of all ages, cultures, and economic standing are suffering from opioid addiction. Many city officials are concerned about the availability of beds, as the number of overdoses is quickly overtaking Kansas City hospitals’ capacity for patients.

The city is attempting many things to combat the crisis. One strategy that has yielded positive results is providing emergency medical service crews with more Naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses. Naloxone gives paramedics the ability to reverse the fatal effects of some opioid overdoses in the field, reducing the strain on hospitals and other medical facilities.

Importance of Rehabilitation for Opioid Abuse

Even if hospitals and paramedics can reverse overdoses, it doesn’t cure a person’s addiction. Susan Whitmore, the president of First Call, a crisis organization working on decreasing the area’s rate of addiction, claims that the period of vulnerability does not stop once the person’s overdose is over. If he or she does not go to rehabilitation immediately, it is highly likely that he or she will end up using again and possibly experiencing another overdose that paramedics may not be able to reverse.

Kansas City drug experts such as Whitmore, are working to improve conditions for people who have just come out of opioid rehabilitation. They want to create a more supportive community for those who struggle with addiction. Many people coming out of rehab need to navigate housing, find employment, and reintegrate with family and friends. The faster people working to recover can become more stable members of society and have the community accept them, the less likely it is that they will relapse into habits of opioid abuse.

Steps to Reduce Opioid Abuse

The country is starting to take steps to reduce the number of opioid overdoses. The company that makes OxyContin announced that they will no longer actively advertise the drug to reduce OxyContin use and addiction.

Both federal and state governments continue to work to fight drug epidemic. In a strong first step, the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has shut down some of the major websites on the dark web that were pushing opioids. However, the federal initiatives seem to focus more on advertising than actual addiction care.

In Kansas City, a local center received grant money to combat the opioid epidemic. The Missouri Department of Mental Health awarded Healing House a two-year grant of $320,000 to improve recovery services available through the Recovery Community Center for people struggling with opioid abuse.

Some of the services the center will provide include recovery housing, recovery coaching, telephone-based recovery services, recovery meetings, life skill groups, recovery management checkups, and other services focused on peer engagement. Three other organizations across Missouri also received grant money to improve resources for people struggling with opioid abuse.

Hopefully, these steps will curb the state’s epidemic, but it seems clear that larger initiatives on a national level will be crucial for real change.