By NICK GOSNELL
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Overdose Trends in Reno County report notes that opioid overdoses are only part of the problem in the county.
"Not only do we have the isolation of COVID-19 that, of course, drives those with a substance use disorder slash addiction deeper into isolation, away from support groups and treatment facilities," said substance misuse educator Seth Dewey with the Reno County Health Department. "We also have the advent of, of course, as we always talk about, fentanyl, but not only just fentanyl, but fentanyl being mixed into other substances without the knowledge of the individual who is engaging in that activity."
In other words, an addict may not think they need Narcan handy for a potential overdose, because it isn't their intent to take an opiate, but it's mixed in to the drug sold to them. It's still a better bet from a financial standpoint to treat the problems in an addict's brain then either let them die or put them in jail.
"Harm reduction, it's not just Narcan, it's also referral to treatment," Dewey said. "Getting people a seamless process into treatment. The cost of treatment versus incarceration, even with medically assisted treatment options, is so significantly cheaper. That's not only cheaper to the individual. It's cheaper to the county because many of these individuals are, in fact, uninsured."
The average annual cost of yearlong incarceration in Kansas is just over $30,000. Methadone treatment for heroin users costs about $4,700 a year, with outpatient rehab at $5,000 per three months.
"Almost all of the overdoses are occurring within the 67501 ZIP code," said data analyst DJ Gering. "We know that those are also where most of our ED visits into the hospital are coming from, as well as our mental health ED visits, things like suicidal ideation, suicide attempts."
Fifty percent of the ED visits connected with overdoses had a mental health issue as a component of the hospital visit. Those are statistically most likely in the 67501 ZIP Code, as well.