Guest Columnist

How is Iowa combatting the opioid crisis?

Iowa and the entire country have seen a big jump in drug overdose deaths in recent years.

Just between July 1 and mid-September of this year, Iowa hospitals reported more than 250 suspected opioid overdoses. And in 2017, Iowa providers helped more than 75,000 people with treatment and intervention services.

The opioid crisis costs $748 per Iowan per year for health care, substance abuse treatment, criminal justice, lost productivity and fatalities.

So what’s Iowa doing to tackle the problem?

This year, the Legislature approved a better system for tracking opioid prescriptions (HF 2377). Prescribers will register with Iowa’s Prescription Monitoring Program and enter prescriptions they write for opioids into that system. Those who prescribe too much of any controlled substance may face penalties.

Tackling prescription pain killers is only one part of the problem, though.

We also avoided a big mistake by halting GOP legislation introduced this year to eliminate the Iowa Department of Public Health (HF 2017). The Department’s work is critical to fighting the opioid crisis—and acknowledges the reality that many Iowans have access to dangerous illicit drugs.

IDPH has provided free Narcan kits—which can halt an overdose—to emergency rooms, pharmacies, law enforcement and first responders. The goal is to get more kits into the hands of those who can be of the most help—the family and friends of those struggling with a deadly addiction.

The U.S. Congress has now approved the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 to help states expand addiction treatment. It’s also expected to pay for research into opioid alternatives, support greater use of non-opioid pain management and invest in law enforcement efforts to reduce the drug overdose crisis. I look forward to Iowans benefitting from these resources as they’re rolled out.

If you or someone you know is struggling with pain, depression, drugs or another addiction, help is available. Visit YourLifeIowa.org or call 855-581-8111 to find treatment options.

— Sen. Rich Taylor represents Henry and Lee counties and portions of Washington and Jefferson counties.