December 09, 2021

Opioid abuse a concern in Newton

Residents urged to remain vigilant.

Prescription drug abuse is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon, but residents learned on Monday at the Newton Public Library that they can fight back. Hayley Nemmers, a prevention specialist from Employee and Family Resources, was at the library to educate residents about the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse.

Nemmers said that prescription drug abuse hasn’t reached the level of an epidemic yet in Newton, unlike other communities on the eastern edge of the state, but that residents need to maintain vigilance. According to Nemmers, there have been three deaths due to prescription drug related overdoses in Jasper county this year alone.

“People often think that something like this doesn’t happen in Jasper county, but it does,” Nemmers said.

According to Nemmers to majority of people who begin abusing prescription drugs often get them for free, from friends, or a relative. Types of abuse that Nemmers listed included overuse of prescription drugs, using them without a prescription, or for a non-prescribed use, sharing drugs, and crushing or altering the pills to create a more immediate reaction. People who become addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to begin using heroin, which is also part of the opiate family.

“When pills get too hard to find, it’s a lot cheaper to buy heroin,” Nemmers said.

Rob Burdess, the chief of police in Newton, said that while the department has seen signs of heroin abuse, he doesn’t think the problem is as widespread as it is in eastern Iowa.

“The trend is for issues to move from east to west, and many eastern Iowa cities are seeing abuse at the epidemic level,” Burdess said. “We’re preparing for that, and trying to get ahead of it.”

For Burdess, the best defense is a good offense, and to that end the Newton Police Department has paired up with a number of organizations to focus on education and awareness, in hopes of stopping problems before they get started. On Thursday, August 3rd, members of the Jasper County Substance Abuse Coalition will meet at 11AM to discuss prevention efforts at the E.J.H. Beard Administration building, located at 1302 1st Avenue W in Newton. Both Burdess and Nemmers urged interested residents to attend.

One of the biggest changes that Burdess has initiated to combat prescription drug abuse has been the installation of a drug drop box in the lobby of the police department. The box, which allow residents to anonymously dispose any types of drugs has been in constant use since it’s installation.

“It could be aspirin or Oxycontin, we have no idea, the main idea is just to get rid of it,” Burdess said.

The Newton Police Department is also looking into carrying Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, which is a nasal spray that is designed to combat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. Burdess said his department hasn’t started carrying the Narcan, and he’s still working to determine if there’s a need for it in Newton. He pointed out that ambulances in Newton do carry Narcan, and are usually only moments behind police officers.

“If we see a need to carry it we’ll try and figure out how to carry it,” Burdess said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or