The opioid epidemic is all over the media. Stories on the news and radio warn of the destruction that accompanies opioid abuse. But what does this mean for Jasper County? Is this happening here in our town? How can we keep our community safe and healthy when we know the peak of the epidemic isn’t expected to happen in Iowa for another three to five years? These are important questions and the answers are concerning, but the situation is far from hopeless.
Opioid addiction is here, in our town, impacting our community. One of the most high profile indicators of that fact was the recent drug bust in Newton where two citizens were charged with possession with intent to deliver where one of the substances being distributed was heroin and four others were charged with misdemeanor charges. Other indicators come from the Iowa Courts Information System and Justice Data Warehouse, which shows there has been a 21 percent increase in opioid related offenses in Jasper County between 2014 and 2016 as compared to the 15 percent increase the state has seen for the same time frame. Finally, the number of times EMS used Narcan (the opioid overdose reversal drug) increased from seven patients in all of 2016 to 17 patients between January and August 2017.
While these numbers may feel small, the impact of the addiction on family, friends and the community is anything but small. Community members in recovery from their opioid addiction talk about the emotional and long term toll it has taken on their lives. People who have survived this disease report everything from traumatic events such as watching a loved one overdose, to struggling with massive amounts of debt from lengthy legal proceedings and long term health conditions, including exacerbated mental health concerns. These consequences devastate the lives of not only the person with the addiction but also all those who care for that person.
The disease of addiction is ruthless and does not discriminate, but as a community we are also well poised to prevent this epidemic from getting worse. The Newton Police Department has a prescription drug drop box available in their lobby so no matter the time of year, you can take your unused prescription medications and have them disposed of safely.
Additionally, the Newton Police Department has led the charge to prevent all manner of substance abuse in Jasper County by creating the Jasper County Substance Abuse Coalition which engages all sectors of the community to address this issue. The coalition is only successful due to the engagement of the community and all community members are welcome to attend. The coalition meets at 11 a.m. the third Monday of every month at the Newton Community School District Office. For more information about ways to get involved in substance abuse prevention, contact Hayley Nemmers at Employee and Family Resources (EFR) at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 515-471-2328.