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EAMA hosts seminar to learn about opioids

Speakers talk about prevention, current addictions

May 7, 2018
David Swartz - Managing Editor ( , Estherville News

Some fishermen are dragging their nets along a stream when suddenly several people begin floating by. The fishermen begin rescuing these people, which just seem to keep coming.

One of the fishermen leaves while the others continue rescue efforts. Finally, the flow of people ceases and the absent fisherman returns.

"Why did you leave us," his fishermen demand.

"I went upstream to find the problem and fixed the bridge where people were falling through," came the response.

This story, told by Avera Holy Family Pharmacy Manager Kristi Hough, illustrates the story of prevention.

Hough told the story to members of the Estherville Area Ministerial Association, which held an Opioid Awareness Seminar on April 20.

Hough was one of four speakers at the event talking about what is being done to try to prevent opioid addiction in Emmet County.

Avera looks at

prescribing habits

At Avera Holy Family, Hough said the focus is on prescribing habits.

Often, doctors have focused on pain management.

Hough said the goal is to refine those options and focus more on comfort and functionality. The hospital also is focusing on utilizing treatment plans for any patient discharged on opioids.

Hough also explained what an opioid is and described many of the common drugs that fall under that category.

Hough said people who going searching for opioids "on the street" will find a more potent and deadly version.

Hough said Avera Holy Family is a member of a hospital group that allows them to share stories and come up with other options.

Hospitals are also looking at non-opioid treatments including physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and injection therapies.

Hough said opioids can lead people to seek cheaper drugs such as heroin.

"Illegal drug use is on the rise," she said.

Hough talked about some of the resources in Emmet County, which includes the Seasons Center.

She also noted there are places to dispose of unused medicine-both at the Avera Medical Clinic and the Emmet County Law Enforcement Center.

Hough said any medications turned in should be put in a single zip lock bag.

Computer records help play a part in helping physicians know when not to prescribe opioids.

Hough said some patients who are addicted may come to the emergency room just for pills. Computer records will show the attending physician the patient's prescription history.

Opioids not a big issue yet, but other drugs

are in Emmet County

Emmet County Sheriff Mike Martens was the second speaker to address the group.

"We've always been aggressive in substance abuse issues," Martens said.

He led off with statistics that began in 2014 when Emmet County had 22 driving while impaired (DWI) instances.

In 2015, the county had 14 DWI instances-two were drug impaired.

In 2016, the county had 11 DWIs with one drug impaired.

But in 2017, there were 37 DWIs with six drivers drug impaired.

"Colorado has been hard on us-we've seen more cannabis impairment," said Martens, referring to that state legalizing recreational marijuana.

Martens said his staff is trained to recognize drug impairment as well as alcohol impairment.

Martens is part of the Emmet County group called MOCSY-Making Optimum Choices for Successful Youth-which is focused on reducing underage alcohol consumption in the county.

One statistic Martens shared noted that showed student binge drinking within 30 days of a survey was 9 percent in Emmet County compared to 5 percent across the state.

MOCSY is working to educate students and parents about the danger of underage use of alcohol.

Locally, the group is working to enhance law enforcement with stronger host laws, which mean harsher penalties for anyone who hosts underage drinking parties. The underage drinkers are also redirected to juvenile court services.

Martens noted that alcohol and drug abuse are contributing reasons for why most of those are imprisoned in Emmet County.

The sheriff also showed the group some of the indicators of someone who is doing drugs.

Finding an empty pop can with holes in certain places can indicate it was used for marijuana smoking. Other signs are a digital scale or a ball of aluminum foil.

Martens also talked about methamphetamine.

"It can be smoked snorted, ingested or injected," he said. "It's usually smoked."

Two things used for that are an aluminum foil and empty pen casings.

When Martens started in law enforcement, he saw mostly marijuana and cocaine.

Meth is now more common.

"It's cheap and easy to manufacture," he said.

One thing that helped in Emmet County is the Iowa Legislature restricting access to pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicine. Since that action, Martens said he hasn't come across a meth lab in the county for many years. Meth labs were waste dumps and considered hazardous sites.

He estimates the last meth labs were raided around 2005. He remembers raiding two on Memorial Day some time before he became sheriff in 2008.

The sheriff notices the effect on family units with meth.

"Children exposed to illicit drugs create another layer of problems," Martens said.

The sheriff said he has not seen prescription drug abuse, but there have been thefts of opioids and other medicines from homes.


Michelle Banks, Compass Pointe Substance Abuse Counselor, told the group that so far she also hasn't seen opioid cases.

She estimates 80 percent of Estherville cases are referred to Compass Pointe by the Department of Human Services.

"Of those 80 percent, 75 percent have some involvement with meth," she said.

On the opioid front, Banks said the trend in Iowa is moving from east to west, having started in the Chicago area.

Banks said there haven't been opioid cases in Emmet County, but there have been incidents in some neighboring counties.

Banks said parents who do drugs are more likely to put their money into their habit instead of food for their kids.

Concerning treatment, she said most are not self-referrals, but usually referred to from outside sources.

Banks said most clients don't want to be in treatment even if they know they have a problem.

Many clients are unable to be helped until they hit rock bottom and are willing to change.

Banks said the success rate for rehabilitating those on meth is only six percent.

She also said that many people will switch from addiction to addiction.


Joseph May, Director of Mission Services at Avera Holy Family, was the final speaker for the day's program.

He reminded the ministerial association members that there "tools are in the Lord."

Those that come for drug abuse counseling need to be referred to someone else like the Cherish Center or Hope Haven.

"As pastors, we should give them fellowship," May said.



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