Local Reaction to President Trump’s Plan to Tackle Opioid Epidemic

DES MOINES, Iowa -- "The big problem with opioids is they're just so readily available," said Jim Wilwerding, a certified alcohol and drug counselor at New Heights Counseling Resources, Inc. in Urbandale.

Wilwerding says most of the people who get addicted to opioids don't buy their first round on the streets.

"They get hooked up because their doctor prescribed them OxyContin for their pain," said Wilwerding. "And then the pain subsided and they kept using the prescription and abusing it, and on down the addictive cycle."

Wilwerding believes in a three-pronged solution to the problem: prevention, treatment, and stopping the cycle. However, this is a challenge since most opioid addictions begin with legal prescriptions.

"How do we head that off with the drug manufacturers, with the prescribing doctors, with the pharmacies that dispense it?" said Wilwerding. "Be able to identify who's buying too much, using too much, and you know, no pharmacy manufacturer is going to want to say, 'we want to sell less of our product.'"

But that's exactly what President Trump's plan calls for: reducing opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years, in part by encouraging physicians to change their prescribing behavior. The plan also calls for guaranteed access to the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone and for the Justice Department to seek more death penalty cases against drug traffickers.

"As it exists right now, there are death penalty options for drug-related crimes that are committed at a local level," said Sergeant Paul Parizek, Public Information Officer for the Des Moines Police Department. "There's some criteria that have to be met, but this already exists. I haven't seen that impacting the drug distribution issues here in our community."

Sgt. Parizek says there needs to be a conversation about the suppliers, but also believes it would be better for society to invest time into focusing on prevention and taking a look at some of the moral and cultural decline that has taken place over the decades.

"I was just looking at a picture down in the chief's office and it's a 1962 crossing guard at East 14th and Hull (Ave)," said Sgt. Parizek. "And I'm looking at these kids, thinking these kids aren't going home, doing dope, and shooting the place up. You know, there's acceptable behaviors now that just weren't acceptable (then). You know, our society has changed a lot, and that goes for adults and children."