DES MOINES, Iowa _ A legislative committee met twice, recently, to take another look at the state’s response to the epidemic of opioid abuse, an issue that lawmakers have been unable to address in the past.
Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, is a key member of that panel and has done extensive research on how the opioid epidemic is damaging workplaces and communities across the state. Though lawmakers failed to agree on a. response last year, Isenhart said he’s not willing to give up on the issue because of the damage is doing.
`With this interim committee, you don’t often get a second chance to make a good first impression,” Isenhart said, in an interview. “I suppose if I wasn’t optimistic, I’d be a no-show at the meeting.”
In fact. Isenhart said, he’s looking forward to the meeting and thinks there’s a chance that lawmakers could act in the next session of the legislature.
He noted that there were 1,900 deaths in Illinois last year linked to opioids and it’s foolish to think workplaces and homes in Iowa are immune.
`In Illinois there were 1,900 deaths last year and that problem is moving west,” Isenhart said.
The proposals that have been pushed in the past include “Good Samaritan” protections for people who overdose and for those who seek emergency help for someone who is overdosing., Proposals include “harm reduction” policies that have been adopted in 37 other states. Under those proposals, people would not be charged with drug possession or use when they are directly involved in life3-saving efforts.
`What brings me to the table is we had six heroin deaths in Dubuque in 2016.
Other proposals include state funding to support state money for “recovery community organizations.” The mission of those organizations is to mobilize resources within and outside of the recovery community to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions which plague the workplace and families.
“There can be no long-term improvements in the outlook for substance use disorders in our society if people directly affected are not part of the conversation and solution as subjects of their own destinies,” Isenhart said.
In one piece of bright news, legislators were told that health care professionals have moved to trim the prescriptions of opioid painkillers. Iowa Board of Pharmacy officials told lawmakers that the number of prescription opioid pills this year is likely to hit 270 million, roughly a 10 percent drop from the 301 million such pills sold last year.
That’s still about 90 pills for every man woman and child in the state. Legislators said they saw a glimmer of hope in those numbers.