MASON CITY, Iowa- Local law enforcement, prevention specialists with the Iowa Department of Public Health and substance abuse experts from around the area met in one room Friday to learn about the impacts opioids locally.
“Especially Southeast and Central Iowa, they are seeing a huge rise with opioid use,” said Karie Terhark, the Director of Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention. Not only with their adults, but youth as well. So we usually see it come across the state and we want to watch and make sure we can stay ahead of it.”
Terhark said they’re not seeing a spike in Hancock County and wants to keep it that way.
“We always want to be prepared for what’s coming,” she said. “it’s easier to try and prevent something than to be reactive.”
The Iowa Harm and Reeducation Coalition hosted the event and looked to introduce a new idea known a “needle exchange program” where drug users can get rid of their used syringes and pick up new ones. They believe that can prevent the spread of disease and have other positive impacts on drug users.
“We know from states that have needle exchange programs that when they exist people that use are five times more likely to enter treatment,” said Daniel Runde with the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition.
They would like to see more people capable of using the drug narcan as well; a medication that helps revers opioid overdoes.
“Most overdoses are done, not surprisingly, by friends, fellow drug users, or family members,” he said. “We need to try and get that medicine into the hands of as many people as we can.”
The goal is to tailor these tactics to what will work best in each community. For Terhark, that means staying ahead of the opioid epidemic.
“When you are looking at a drug that is being used through a syringe, you are also looking at hepatitis, aids, blood borne illnesses, it is a different perspective of prevention.”
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