BURLEY — Leaders from across the Magic Valley gathered Aug. 21 at Cassia Regional Hospital to look at the scope of the opioid problem in Mini-Cassia and solutions for reducing its impact in the community.
Nancy Winmill, the mother of a son who became addicted to opioids after two car crashes that occurred within months of each other, described how it wreaked havoc on her marriage and lives of their other children.
“My conscience won’t let me sit back and be still,” Winmill said who spearheaded a support group, “Simply Hope, family outreach, to help others dealing with addictions within their families.
Cassia County Magistrate Judge Mick Hodges has been a judge in the county for 10 years and has watched how addictions have changed the nature of the crimes committed.
“The community has changed significantly in that time and it’s not good,” Hodges said.
Hodges said a petit theft 10 years ago often involved a child stealing a package of gum from a store and today it often stems from a 20-year-old stealing a toolbox in order to buy oxycodone.
Hodges said opioid use has driven up the need for foster care and increases the burden for grandparents who often step in to raise their grandchildren.
“These drugs present a very real public health crisis,” he said.
Scott Rasmussen, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said the Idaho’s Response to the Opioid Crisis program provides treatment and recovery support services.
The program offers services to people with addictions and resources for physicians and dentists to track opioid prescriptions for patients.
Kim Dopson, director of the Crisis Center of South Central Idaho in Twin Falls said the center provides mental health and substance abuse services for free at the 20-bed facility.
The center has had as many as 14 patients in a 24 hour period.
“I had no idea the need was so great in our area,” Dopson said.
Doctor Aaron Guercio, a general surgeon at CRH, said medical procedures, like incisions, staples and drains often create a lot of pain for a patient.
Often patients are prescribed medications for the pain that are as strong as or stronger than heroin. When a person becomes addicted to these medications they need increased doses to have the same effects and the medications do not work as well, which increases chronic pain. The body’s ability to block pain also decreases with the use of opioids.
Doctors at the hospital try to reduce the number of patients receiving opioid medications by using combinations of other medications and anesthetic blocks to induce numbing after surgery or procedures.
“That’s been a real breakthrough for us,” Guercio said.
Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO Marc Harrison said the hospital is leading the company with a reduced number of prescribed pills.
“We look forward to a future where we don’t have to have these kinds of conversations,” Harrison said.