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County officials work to prevent increase in opioid misuse and heroin use

On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners participated in a study session about opioid and heroin drug filings with the county’s criminal justice coordinator. It’s part of the county’s effort to intervene with education in what is becoming a national health crisis.

“County first responders and members of the medical community are seeing concerns related to opioids increasing,” said criminal justice coordinator Robert Sullivan. “If we wait for the problem to reach the criminal justice system, it will be too late.”

Sullivan presented 17 years of court filing data — 2000 to 2016 — from Johnson County.

Since 2012, opioid court filings have been trending downward. Based on county data, opioid filings decreased by 37 percent from 2015 to 2016 while marijuana and stimulant filings increased, with methamphetamine accounting for 70 percent of all stimulant filings.

Even though criminal justice data do not suggest a growing trend of opioid and heroin misuse locally, Johnson County Government leaders are taking proactive steps to educate the public about the issue.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the state of Kansas experiences statistically lower overdose deaths per 100,000 residents compared to the national rate (11.8 in the state; 16.3 nationally). Missouri overdoses per 100,000 are statistically higher than the national rate at 17.9.

Misuse prevention

“Community collaboration is key in preventing substance misuse,” Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.  “Johnson County is best served by effective partnerships with local law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, parents and others, and community partnerships are imperative for a comprehensive approach to creating sustainable change.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States, and the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of 10) involve an opioid. CDC data indicate 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose (that includes prescription opioids and heroin).

“One lost life is too many,” said Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center. “Individuals in Johnson County are dying from opioid misuse, and we have a responsibility to provide effective prevention and treatment services for the health and well-being of our community.”

The Mental Health Center will host a community discussion and panel discussion on opioid misuse 8:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, June 29, at the Ball Conference Center, 21350 W. 153rd St. in Olathe.

The event will include Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, members of law enforcement, Johnson County Emergency Medical Services and medical doctors from the University of Kansas, as well as Cottonwood Springs psychiatric hospital in Olathe. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to register at jcmhevents@jocogov.org or 913-715-7880.