When The Opioid Crisis Hits Home

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
A massive federal omnibus budget bill was signed into law on March 23rd designating  almost $4  billion to fight opioid abuse. Most of the funds will go to Department of Health and Human Services agencies, with allocations also to the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice for law enforcement. However, no funds are designated for law enforcement efforts in Benton County.
“Benton  County has trouble with Marijuana and Meth,” said Sheriff Eric Knox. “But, the biggest problem is with prescription drugs. The $4 billion aimed at fighting these kind of drug issues is going to health agencies and federal law enforcement agencies. Some funds are being used to issue grants for high intensity drug trafficking areas such as the Hwy 44 corridor. But, Hwy 65 is also a drug trafficking corridor that Benton County is having to address.”
Sheriff Knox said that Benton County needs a pill-sniffing dog for schools to help with the prescription drug issue, and a drone would greatly increase efforts to locate lost children and drowning victims. He said that infrared capabilities of a law enforcement drone could detect heat sources (of humans) and also help locate criminal suspects in hiding places.
“Warsaw Police Chief Jason Wenberg was shot during an altercation that took place last May,” said Sheriff Knox. “If we had had air support like a drone could supply, during that incident, Chief Wenberg’s injuries would not have happened.”
Sheriff Knox said that a drone would cost $20,000 and a pill-sniffing dog $7,000. Of course, there is no money in the budget to cover those costs. However, there is a campaign to raise needed funds and Lucas Oil is being contacted as a potential contributor. The Friends of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office are also working on grant applications and a fundraising drive.
Linda Viebrock, Administrator of the Benton County Health Department, said recently that she has not heard of any health organization in the county that is expecting to get funding from the $4 billion earmarked for the opioid epidemic. However, she said that the county has a fairly new prescription drug ordnance that is in effect and is operating in conjunction with the St. Louis Health Department. Under this Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), the prescribing and dispensing of schedule II-IV controlled substances is carried out to assist in the identification and prevention of prescription drug misuse and abuse.
“Under PDMP, pharmacies have to report  any prescription given out,” said Viebrock.  “Physicians can go online to see if a patient  is receiving the prescription somewhere else.  It  will take some time for input to be put in the system. Another thing this program allows is for trained first responders to administer Narcan (Naloxone) for opioid overdose.”
According to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, paramedics have been carrying and administering naloxone for decades, but the first emergency personnel to arrive at the scene of an overdose are often not paramedics but rather emergency medical technicians (EMTs), emergency medical providers with a lower level of training than paramedics, or law enforcement officers (LEOs). Nationwide, EMTs outnumber paramedics approximately 3 to 1, and LEOs are approximately 10 times more numerous. These disparities are typically more pronounced in rural areas and other underserved locations such as tribal lands. 
Equipping EMTs and LEOs with naloxone may therefore reduce the amount of time between the onset of respiratory depression and the administration of naloxone. Because damage to the brain and other organs generally increases the longer the victim remains hypoxic, the quicker normal respiration is restored, the better outcomes are likely to be.
“I’ve asked for and will receive 22 doses of Narcan for my staff to carry on board,” said Sheriff Knox. “That will be coming from the State Health Department. We’re waiting on our training date before we receive the injectable Style pins. Narcan is used for opioid overdoses in the field.”
Residents of Benton County can help local law enforcement get a bite of the $4 billion allocated for the opioid epidemic by contacting their state and national representatives. Our government representatives include the following.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler 4th District, has a Washington, D.C. address of 2235 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C. 20525. Her office phone is 202-225-2876.  In order to email her, go to https://hartzler.house.gov/contact/email.
Representative Wanda Brown (District 57) has an office  at MO House of Representatives, 201 West  Capitol  Avenue, Room  315, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Her office phone is 573-751-3971, and email is Wanda.Brown@house.mo.gov.
Representative Warren Love (District 125) has an office at MO House of Representatives, 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 413B, Jefferson City, MO 65101. His office phone is 573-751-4065, and email is Warren.Love@house.mo.gov.
In order to contact the office of Gov. Mike Parson, go to https://www.mo.gov/contact-us.