Three hundred and forty-one Iowa residents died from a drug overdose in 2017; that’s 341 too many. However, there is good news. It appears the numbers are decreasing, especially in Iowa, a state that experiences one of the lowest overdose rates per capita in the country. Can you imagine how many more lives could be saved if promising programs were brought to scale and implemented across the state and country? That’s what Innovation Now dares to imagine.
The Innovation Now initiative recognizes innovators across multiple sectors needed at the table to address addiction – prevention, treatment, recovery, criminal justice, law enforcement, harm reduction, health professionals – leaders who are creating solutions and driving change.
Iowa Innovation Now spotlights eight revolutionary programs changing the response to addiction and saving lives.
Instead of in-field fighting, Alliance of Coalitions for Change works with other organizations to positively impact their communities. The Coalition’s purpose is to unify Iowans to reduce substance misuse on a state and community level. Their Action Team creates strategies for addressing alcohol, prescription drugs and marijuana issues unique to each community.
Out of loss, came leadership. Rod Courtney lost his son Chad to an overdose in 2016, but is now a leader of CRUSH (Community Resources United to Stop Heroin) of Iowa. CRUSH is a grassroots, community-based organization that helps people with a substance use disorder. Those impacted by addiction, like Rod, meet twice a month for community support and education and works to prevent further loss from overdoses.
After 25 overdose deaths in Cedar Rapids, Iowa the police department knew they had to intervene, but how? They partnered with the Northern District of Iowa United States Attorney’s Office, and Midwest HIDTA to create the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, a program to combat the opioid epidemic. The Initiative provides drug awareness programs, and free training opportunities for first responders, community groups, city organizations, schools and town hall meetings to combat the crisis on all fronts.
Stats speak for themselves: counseling only has a 6-10% efficacy rate, while counseling with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has a 60-80% success rate for addiction. Primary Health Care follows the statistics and implemented an MAT program to better assist patients. The program provides counseling and behavioral health services to their MAT patients, works with the jail to provide naltrexone and gives presentations throughout the community.
Sarah Ziegenhorn learned about the importance of harm reduction while working in Washington, DC. When she moved back to her home state of Iowa, she brought this knowledge and created the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition. The Coalition helps thousands of Iowans by advocating, educating and providing health services to those with substance use disorders. Services include risk reduction kids, naloxone kits, linkage to addiction treatment, wound care, support groups and so much more.
The Heart of Iowa helps families stay together. This program provides residential addiction treatment specifically designed for women with children. Heart of Iowa, operated by the Area Substance Abuse Council, offers full-service addiction treatment, along with prevention and recovery resources. It allows mothers to achieve recovery while assisting the children with their own unique needs.
The workplace can be a great incentive to find treatment. Employee and Family Resources provide prevention, intervention and treatment services to employees struggling with addiction. The program’s goal is to support and enhance the health and well-being of individuals, families, workplaces and communities and help employees reach their full potential.
Similarly, the Addiction Policy Forum recently partnered with the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) to launch an Employer’s Initiative to provide educational materials, a 24/7 alcohol and drug helpline, and a smartphone recovery app for their employees. TIA will be the first association to offer this free resource to its membership in efforts to address this national epidemic.
We’ve heard it so many times before: we can’t arrest our way out of this crisis. So how do we help people once they have been arrested for drug-related offenses? Bridges of Iowa creates pathways to help individuals reintegrate into society. Bridges offers residential and outpatient level of care for substance use disorders to help individuals become contributing members of their family and society upon release.
It takes a village, and in this case it takes a whole state. Because of effective and innovative programs across Iowa, we are finding reason to hope. The Iowa Innovation Now initiative highlights eight programs leading the charge and producing positive outcomes. We imagine a world where addiction is no longer a major health issue; these innovative programs take us one step closer. Dare to dream with us.