Special Report: What will it take to stop the opioid epidemic?
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - What will it take to stop the opioid epidemic? It is a question many of us across the Tri-State are thinking, and we are searching for answers. In this special report, we sat down with those closest to the battle and explored how we can reach a solution.
In June, Congress approved money for training and recovery programs. None of that money has trickled down to Evansville, yet the battle is on.
"I just know I was on the bed, sick, and I couldn't do it anymore. I got my phone out and searched how can I stop? What can I do to get off these pills? What can I do?" says recovering addict Christie Thompson.
What can she do? What can we do? Finding answers to the opioid epidemic has become a major problem.
"People are paying more attention, but I think they only paid more attention because people started dying," says Thompson.
"We currently rank 34th in the nation in drug-related deaths, yet rank 49th in the nation in public health spending," says Mark Puckett, Brentwood Springs CEO.
The lack in spending shows in the lack of resources. There is a call for more treatment facilities and for more flexible insurance policies.
"All these barriers and red tape and caps. These caps are what are killing people. If you have somebody that comes in and they're only allowed 20 days, 30 days worth of treatment, well, maybe this person needs a higher-level of care, and they need more treatment. They're just getting put back out into the same environment they came from after the 30 days, and that puts them at a risk for relapse and possibly overdose," says Nate Boyett, Boyett Treatment Center President.
From there, the fight moves to dissolve the stigma, something Thompson knows all too well.
"Nobody in there wants to talk. They don't want to be seen. They're afraid of losing their jobs, or their kids seeing them, or their friends seeing them, or their neighbors seeing them," says Thompson.
"The stigma that surrounds being a drug addict and the stigma that surrounds entering treatment, the shame that comes with that. I feel like if the public perception surrounding drug addiction and drug treatment changes and becomes more empathetic rather than just kind of defensive against this type of population, I feel like that would really make an improvement on how we approach this," says Boyett.
Because substance use disorder is a disease. It is not picky.
"If you look at the statistics from AMR that provides emergency medical services to the community. Look at a heat map of where they dispense Narcan: it's all over the city. So, if you look at that and you look at the demographics of people who are affected, it crosses socio-economic boundaries. It crosses race lines," says Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.
"The addict's anybody and everybody. It could be me. It could be you. It could be him. You never know," says Boyett.
No addict can change over night.
"It's a lifelong journey, and I think the resources and funding need to match that," says Puckett.
Yet, the mindset is often that it is a quick fix.
"When somebody's ready to get help, you don't want to tell them they have to wait a week or two weeks on this waiting list because they might not be alive in a week or two weeks," says Boyett.
The following are just some of the resources available in the greater Evansville area.
- Indiana Hospital Association Evansville Town Hall, August 1, 7:30 a.m., Ivy Tech Auditorium, Register here.
- Mayor's Substance Abuse Task Force
- Boyett Treatment Center
- Brentwood Springs
- United Against Opioids
- Deaconess - Cross Pointe
- Safe Haven
- N.O.W. Counseling
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