Finding Hope


FINDING HOPE: Celebrating recovery and progress in the fight against addiction

Idahoans open up about the opioid epidemic
Posted at 7:18 PM, Feb 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 13:33:06-05

Over the last 10 months, we've made it a priority to shed light on the ways the opioid epidemic is impacting Idaho.

Every Monday night, we've introduced you to a person or place that is pushing for change, and change has happened--from recovery, to new programs, to new funding by the state, we continue to find hope.

Along the way over the last ten months, one of the most important things we've learned at 6 On Your Side is recovery is worth celebrating. From single moms, and future moms, to Idaho veterans and everything in between.

Almost everyone we've talked to started out with prescription pills. "[The doctors] kept increasing it," Jerry Kusch tells 6 On Your Side. "I was taking 90 milligrams of morphine three times a day!"

"It starts out slow, you know, just a few here and there, and then all of a sudden I'm taking five at a time," Cassidy Mendoza said.

It's a problem plaguing police across the state, now seeing illegal drugs trafficked into our communities from across state lines.

"Every single day someone's tripping to Utah and bringing back heroin," ISP Lieutenant Clint Skinner said.

"We can see anything from users with the tiniest amounts, to the traffickers that have ounces and up to pounds of it," Cpl. Tyler Sheierman said.

Many users start out by treating chronic pain, eventually developing a dependence. Some users, opened up to share their road to recovery with us.

Mark Deba is living opioid-free after weaning himself off prescription pills by using acupuncture.

"It seemed to un-block those issues that I was having through my body. I could literally feel from my toes to my knee cap something tingling in between, and I could feel after the treatment was done, I had no more pain in that area," Deba said.

Meanwhile Jerry Kusch made the move to Oregon to legally medicate his chronic pain with pot. "Basically, marijuana's been the best for me all along," Kusch said.

With the recent increased awareness around addiction comes extra measures to stop over-prescribing and efforts to keep opioids out of the hands of those who don't need them.

We introduced you to the Nampa oral surgeon using an opioid alternative to send some of his patients home post-surgery prescription pill free.

"Honestly, I didn't feel any pain the whole time, so that was really, really nice," teenage patient Tyler Smack told 6 On Your Side.

In Garden City, veterinarians at West Vet are taking prescribing precautions to prevent addicted pet owners from playing the system to get pills for themselves.

"We try to be very cautious with the amount of opioids we send home, and try to be very careful about refills and how much are sent out the door," Dr. Jeff Brourman said.

What else been done since we started our Finding Hope coverage?

The City of Boise enacted a three-year opioid crisis response strategic plan and even joined a federal lawsuit against major opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Idaho representative Mike Simpson signed on to be a co-sponsor of a bill--which is now law--allowing hospice workers to destroy unneeded medications after a patient's death.

The Boise Police Department and the Idaho Department of Correction have started pilot programs aimed at keeping offenders out of jail and in treatment.

Idaho lawmakers provided legal protections to those who call 9-1-1 while witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose, passing the so-called "Good Samaritan" law.

All of these changes were made in an effort to save lives in Idaho.

"I'm really hoping we're going to start seeing a reduction in these," Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens said.

We've learned a lot about what it takes to reach recovery, and the more peer support people receive, the better their odds are at overcoming opioid addiction.