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Kansas State Opioid Response should be extended
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To the editor:

The opioid crisis in Kansas has become too big to ignore. Opioid deaths last year reached over 170,000 and that number continues to climb. This leaves hundreds of thousands of families, loved ones, and friends devastated. While the federal government has taken some action to implement policies, the cause is still found wanting. One of the most important policies to date is the Kansas State Opioid Response (SOR). It allows states to fund programs that benefit those affected by opioid addiction. Funding is available for rehab, unmet medical needs, mental health needs, transitioning from the criminal justice system into sober living facilities, etc.

While this policy has been pivotal in the opioid crisis, it is set to expire at the end of September this year. We must push legislation to extend this program as it has already helped countless Kansans. Without programs such as this, substance use will increase and our jails will continue to fill up.

How many opioid overdose deaths are too many? Also, this program takes a deeper look into the possible mental health issues behind substance abuse. Without an understanding of underlying mental health issues we simply put these people in jail. Jail is not rehabilitative for people suffering from mental illness and it increases the likelihood of them returning to jail frequently. As well, when people go to jail their tolerance for substances go down, then when they get out they go back to drug use and are more likely to overdose.

Another tool in the prevention of overdose deaths is the distribution of Naloxone. Naloxone, known as Narcan, can reverse the effects of the lack of oxygen to the brain during an overdose. From May 2020 to March 2021 1,051,550 naloxone kits were distributed and approximately 90,204 overdoses were treated by Naloxone. Narcan should be readily available for free to whomever may need it. It is the first line in defense against overdose, and there should be a no questions asked policy for all to have it on hand when needed.

The final legislative push Kansans need to back is the “Overdose Good Samaritan” policy. This policy provides legal protections for individuals who call for emergency assistance. This would essentially give 911 callers immunity when they call for a person overdosing or having a substance related health crisis. This may also include protection from arrest and/or prosecution for crimes related to drug possession, drug paraphernalia possession and other crimes. 

In conclusion, it is time for Kansans to step up and take a role in stopping the countless and mindless deaths from opioid related deaths. Check into these policies and vote yes for them. 

As citizens who likely have no tie to the world of substance abuse, it is likely that each of us has either dealt directly with someone suffering from drug issues, or someone suffering from mental health issues either from drug use or self-medicating with drugs.

Mandy Morris