By Lee A. Norman, MD, MHS, MBA
Secretary, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE)
Kansas State Health Officer
The opioid epidemic is considered the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Prescription and illicit opioids are driving the U.S. drug overdose epidemic – accounting for more than two-thirds of the drug poisoning deaths nationwide in 2017. While Kansas has not, as of yet, faced the tremendous impact that many states have encountered, opioid abuse is a public health concern that we as a community must be proactive and vigilant in addressing.
Scope of the epidemic within Kansas
Drug poisoning remains a significant cause of injury death in Kansas, with 326 deaths in 2017 with a drug poisoning underlying cause of death at an age-adjusted mortality rate of 11.5 per 100,000 population. At least one-third of these drug poisoning deaths involved a non-heroin opioid.
Methods and programs Kansas is using to eliminate the problem
Kansas is proactively addressing the opioid crisis through federal and state-level programs, and strategic planning with stakeholders from various organizations and disciplines. The goal is to identify and implement prevention and intervention efforts around prescription drug and opioid abuse, to decrease fatal and non-fatal overdose rates in Kansas.
Various promotion, prevention, and treatment interventions have been implemented statewide. Some of the initiatives in Kansas include:
Prescription Drug Overdose – Data-Driven Prevention Initiative: This initiative is focused on state-level prevention of prescription and illicit opioid misuse and overdose through a three-pronged approach of planning, data, and prevention in action.
Opioid Overdose Crisis Response Cooperative Agreement: Focused on provider community education and expanding access to substance use disorder and increasing opioid overdose surveillance in emergency departments.
State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis – Focused on substance use disorder treatment. For a list of grant funded treatment centers visit www.KDHEKS.gov
Partnerships for Success – Prescription drug overdose prevention sub-contracted to DCCCA (Douglas County Citizens Committee on Alcoholism), with emphasis on safe medication use, storage, and disposal for primary prevention.
Kansas has passed Good Samaritan laws with other legislative items such as the Naloxone legislation, as well as civil protections for healthcare providers or anyone who assists an individual in an emergency situation under KSA 65-289.
What we can all do
While Kansas remains below the national average for fatal opioid overdoses, we must remain vigilant.
There are things that every one of us can do to impact our community against this crisis. If you’re a parent, teacher, grandparent, foster parent, Big Brother, Big Sister, coach, pastor or someone who works with our youth – talk to them about the opioid epidemic and outline your expectations that they not use substances. Kids listen more than we give them credit for.
Get help. If you have a substance problem, there are treatment and recovery options. From peer support to 12-step groups to counseling.
The SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator website is a good resource. It’s confidential and anonymous. Visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov
I encourage families to get counseling help through groups like Nar-Anon, which can be found at https://www.naranonkc.org/meetings
I am pleased with the work we’re doing in Kansas, Let’s continue to save lives and increase awareness of this important topic. For more information visit: www.KDHEKS.gov