Guest Columnist

Iowa's addiction crisis made worse by pandemic

Nonprofit collaborates with social media company to offer support

Naloxone and syringes for nasal delivery of the overdose-reversal drug in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Jim
Naloxone and syringes for nasal delivery of the overdose-reversal drug in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Cities and states across our country, including Cedar Rapids, are taking necessary precautions, urging people to quarantine as COVID numbers rise. In Iowa, we have already lost more than 2,900 people to COVID, but there is another crisis taking lives in our community made even worse by the COVID pandemic - addiction.

In 2019, there have were over 9,600 emergency room visits in Iowa due to drug overdoses. More than 100 people had already died from opioid overdose by June of this year and these numbers are expected to rise as people struggling with addiction face challenges of isolation, loss of connection to normalcy, friends and family and even their livelihoods, leading into the holiday season.

To help address this crisis, Partnership to End Addiction, a national nonprofit that engages and helps families impacted by addiction, with support from Facebook, is using technology to connect families and communities in the Cedar Rapids area with the support and information they need to take vital first steps toward recovery.

Partnership to End Addiction is able to help families impacted by addiction to identify quality treatment resources in their community. And through crisis support over Facebook Messenger, Facebook connects people to support from the partnership’s trained and caring bilingual addiction specialists. The support is free and confidential and helps parents and caregivers find answers for themselves and their child.

The addiction epidemic in Iowa has been going on for far too many years, which is why local communities need help and support to stop the stigma that holds so many people back from getting help. Last holiday, we focused on helping break down the stigma of addiction with the Stop Opioid Silence public awareness campaign that reached 70 million people via Facebook and Instagram. This year, our focus is on connecting people to the information they need to get help with the Start with Connection campaign. The isolation of COVID-19, coupled with the holidays, makes connecting using Facebook and Instagram even more important.

This holiday season, we encourage everyone to reach out to those who are alone. We know asking for help is a critical step in overcoming addiction. This is the heart of Partnership to End Addiction’s work, connecting people struggling with addiction to personalized support. That is why we are working closely with Facebook to connect people with the help they need, wherever they are.

As we prepare to celebrate the holiday season, Iowa residents can connect with those who need our support and encouragement. Visit drugfree.org/get-support-now/ to learn more or get help.

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Marcia Lee Taylor is external and government relations officer at Partnership to End Addiction. Will Castleberry is vice president of state policy at Facebook.

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