Articles, Blog

Polk County Health Department Encourages Opioid Epidemic Awareness

December 23, 2019

In this role I am a health educator. My main position is to educate the community
about different health topics and concerns. One of the issues that we have seen facing
our community is the opioid epidemic. And we have been an advocate for research
and resources in this field. One of the things that we have done is we
have been a part of the opiate task force. And this is a community-wide effort to really
educate the community about all different factors that go into opiate prevention. So this may be education, this may be prevention
sources and this may be barriers to treatment. So one of the things that we do at Polk County
Health Department is we make sure that individuals are familiar with the resources that they
can access if a family member or themselves is in a state of they know they’re addicted
to opiates and that they need to seek treatment or that they would need Narcan. We make sure to provide them with
the resources and the education so they know firsthand where to get that information. I think that’s the biggest issue that we
have is with MAT, which is medicated assisted treatment. And individuals think that they are replacing
one drug for another and we simply know that is not what happens when you use MAT. I always like to refer to it as a heart medicine. So let’s say you just recently had a heart
attack or you had a stroke. You go on heart medicine. And so this is helping you keep your body
healthy by taking that medicine. It’s the same thing with MAT. You’re helping your body stay healthy by
taking MAT. So it’s not simply replacing one drug
for another. Sometimes our body just needs a certain type
of medication to be able to function. Think about if you are taking medicines for
depression or anti-anxiety medicine, it’s the same thing. It’s not replacing one drug for another. Another thing is when we’re talking about
the opiate epidemic is what community resources are available for people. So we have some that are out-term, outpatient
substance abuse and we have inpatient substance abuse. So it’s really talking to the individual
about what program is going to be best for themselves or their family member and also
what is going to be best financially because depending on what insurance we have or the
financial hardship it all really depends on what is good for the individual and what kind
of treatment they need. I really like to say when we talk about the
opioid epidemic it doesn’t discriminate, it affects anybody, it affects everyone. So you look at anybody from an economic standpoint,
from an educational standpoint, race, sex, it does not discriminate, it affects all. And I really think that everybody needs to
know about it because look at it, what is the Kevin Bacon saying that six point
separation from Kevin Bacon. Everybody knows someone, everybody knows someone
who’s been affected by the opiate epidemic. And the more we learn, the more we educate
our individuals about the opiate epidemic, how to use Narcan, the better we are equipped to deal with this epidemic. My role at Polk County Health Department is
health educator and I have been honored to actually be kind of a part of United Community
Service Healthcare over the last 4 years. I teach a class called In the Community and
this is a class where individuals learn about all different health topics. So over my course of 4 years we have talked
about anything and everything. There is no topic that is uncomfortable for
me to talk about. Another thing that I see in the state of Iowa
is addiction affects anyone and everyone, especially in Polk County, we have a very
diverse population. And so we need to be able to cater to individuals
who’s English is not their primary language. As health educator one of my other responsibilities
is to be part of an organization called RACI, and this is Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa,
and I am part of the health subgroup. One of our tasks we have realized is, again
looking at the refugee and immigrant population, they do not have a lot of resources for substance
abuse and mental health. So what we are doing is to really figure out
how to combat this issue by looking towards agencies and what resources they need to fill
in those gaps to be able to really help reach populations that do not speak English as a
primary language.

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