Grassroots action planned on opioid crisis in local community
Having recently received their share of the funds from an opioid settlement, the Gasconade County Prosecutor's Office has plans to use that money to combat the opioid crisis here at the grassroots level.
County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Weston has been tasked with administering the $34,800 her office has received as part of the settlement, but as this is an unprecedented fund, the details on how, when, and on what specifically the money will be spent has yet to be determined.
However, although the finer details on the use of the money may still be forthcoming, Weston has a clear vision for how the money will be used broadly to fight the opioid crisis that she said has had a terrible impact on the health of the local community.
“We have to educate people,” Weston said. “They need to know if they’re trying to buy oxycontin, it's not, it’s probably fentanyl.”
The lack of outreach to the community from public authorities on the dangers of opioids like fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, is 50-100 times stronger than heroin – is what Weston aims to change with this new initiative.
She understands that the one-time sum of $34,800 is not a tremendous amount of money and that the county prosecutor’s office will need to reach out to, and cooperate with other public entities in order to make their work a success.
The goal is to create a whole-of-the-community effort that involves coordination with places like the school districts, the Gasconade County Health Department, and ambulance districts, to name a few, that would use their combined resources to help raise awareness throughout all levels of the local community on the deadly nature of these opioids.
Working with the schools to equip students with the knowledge of the threat opioids pose will be an important aspect of the effort through preventing childhood addiction or death.
The money being administered by Weston would then be used to cover any “hard costs” the initiative would incur, like printing costs for an informational brochure or pamphlet, which has been one of the first projects considered to help increase public awareness.
Franklin County’s provision of free Naloxone, or Narcan, a drug used to treat the effects of opioid overdose, is another idea that could be looked at for inclusion as part of this new program.
Whatever use the funds will eventually put toward, Weston acknowledges the community effort will also need people and groups to volunteer their time and resources to make the fight against the opioid crisis effective in the area.
While a timeline has yet to be worked out and everything remains in a tentative planning stage, Weston and her office are beginning the process of establishing the connections between community and governmental organizations to get the initiative off the ground.
More information will be coming with new developments once a plan is put in place and action to make a difference on the health of the local community begins.
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