How to save a life

    The Missouri Republican legislature has pushed the opioid crisis to the back burner of concern because many of them suggest that other addicts choose to use; therefore, put themselves into addiction. They have a choice, I’ve heard. They can quit if they really want to, I’ve heard. This quip really I do not understand, “Use tough love and just let ‘em learn. It is their life.”

    Without a clear understanding of what a drug does to a user that makes him or her become an addict those arguments are not valid. Why deny addicts treatment or care, compassion or concern? This issue is a growing crisis in Missouri that impacts the community, family, and health care system affecting the future.
    Over the past several years, while trying to change marijuana laws, opioids have captured more people creating a crisis. Lack of funding, low pay for mental health workers, and cuts in personnel and funding continue to hinder both preventative efforts and recovery efforts for people who find themselves unable to stop even with the knowledge they are killing themselves.
    Statistics are boring and confusing to read and not always up to the minute. In 2017 there were 1,366 deaths in Missouri from drug overdoses. By 2020 there were 1,878 deaths in Missouri (Missouri Department of Mental Health Statistics). Missouri ranks 32nd nationally in overdose deaths in the 18 to 44 years age range—70 percent of those deaths are caused by opioids. That is more deaths by overdose than automobile accidents.
    In Crawford County this year, 2022, there have been six overdose deaths. Franklin County shows 53 deaths and Washington County 14. The list goes on.
    Why should we be concerned? The impact is on the present and the future. People overdose in public places. An employee at a local store stated that there were at least 10 calls a month to the police for someone overdosing in the restroom during the night. Add to that the number of other crimes that take place to make money to buy drugs or result in violence that requires police and medical personnel.
    Community treatment (COMTREA) centers have closed due to lack of funding, people seeking help face a lack of resources and nowhere to turn. The immediacy of help when needed and wanted is crucial whether court mandated or voluntary. There are approximately 200 beds for men in Missouri substance abuse treatment centers. At most when calling and looking for a bed for a loved one or for him or herself there may be one to five beds available statewide. The closest to Crawford County are Springfield, St. Charles,and St. Louis. Try to find a shelter or treatment center!
    The greatest impact is not loss of property; it is the loss of human potential. Not only the addict, but children whose parents are hooked, are involved. The foster care system is overwhelmed. The mental health care system is overwhelmed. Schools are overwhelmed. The repercussion of addiction affect police, EMS, hospitals, families, and the community as a whole.
    Throwing money at a problem is not a solution unless that money is spent on education for prevention and treatment. Treatment must be accessible and compassionate. More prisons are not the answer. More compassion is.
Deborah K. Dicus
and Lisa Herbst