Opioids | KCUR

Opioids

Chris Neal

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Health care — who gets it, who doesn’t, and how we pay for it — will command as much attention in Missouri and Kansas politics this year as on the national scene.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — More than two dozen cities and counties across Kansas have sued the opioid industry, from a small town with a population of 150 near the Colorado border to the state’s most populous county at its opposite end.

More may still file suits, legal experts say. And those that don’t could get a payout regardless if opioid makers, distributors and vendors opt for a global settlement. That would not only end the massive snarl of lawsuits brought by 2,600 parties nationwide but also prevent tens of thousands of other local governments from taking them to court, too.

Doctoral students in psychology at the University of Missouri will be able to learn how to better treat and prevent addiction thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the federal government.

The funds from the Department of Health and Human Services will pay for 21 new psychology internships in areas that lack health services, more than doubling the department’s current positions.

“This will enable us to give them a little something extra,” said Laura Schopp, chair of the university’s health psychology department. “Any psychologist who is dealing with these chronic health conditions is going to come up against substance use disorders and, particularly, opioid use disorders.”

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One out of three Missouri participants in Medicare’s prescription drug program were prescribed opioids last year, more than the national rate of 29%, according to a newly released government report.

About 973,000 Missourians were enrolled in Medicare Part D and 321,000 of them received opioids, the report by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ inspector general finds.

Wikimedia

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2019, to reflect comments from the Bureau of Prisons.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will provide opioid addiction treatment for a prisoner at the Leavenworth penitentiary, according to a settlement reached Wednesday.

Updated at 7:04 p.m. ET

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state's opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers, and must pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17.5 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in the state.

Segment 1: While the rest of the nation has seen a decrease in the number of drug overdose deaths, Missouri and Kansas have seen a rise.

In 2018 death by drug overdose declined 4.2% in the United States, but Missouri saw an increase of 17% while Kansas saw a 5.6% rise. Public health officials from each side of the state line offer their thoughts on what was behind the respective upswings.

Segment 1: The changing culture of language-learning in professional baseball.

About 25 percent of Major League Baseball players were from Spanish-speaking countries on Opening Day in March. What role do professional baseball teams play in incorporating language-learning into their players' transitions to living and playing in the United States?

The Washington Post

A newly released database shows that Leavenworth County, Kansas, had one of the highest concentrations of opioid pills per person in the United States between 2006 and 2012.

While those numbers might suggest a hidden calamity in eastern Kansas, the vast majority of those pills were actually processed by a Veteran’s Administration fullfillment center, rather than distributed locally, according to the data.

Segment 1: The author of "One by One" shares his battle with opioid addiction.

Nicholas Bush found himself hiding from police for crimes related to his to an opioid addiction. After 10 years of drug abuse and the loss of two siblings, Bush was finally able to kick his habit after a dream involving his deceased sister.

About 15 miles southwest of St. Louis is Fenton City Park. It’s pretty unremarkable, with picnic shelters, softball fields, and flags waving gently from a memorial to fallen soldiers. This is where Kevin Mullane sought refuge as he struggled with an opioid addiction.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Missouri remains the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, though it is a step closer. Again. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Doctors generally agree that opioids are not a good choice for treating most chronic pain. But scientists have struggled to develop safe pain treatments that provide the same level of relief as opioids.

Now there's hope that might change. New research supports the use of a treatment method that’s lurked for years on the fringes of medicine. The question is whether it will remain stuck there.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Missouri’s lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jefferson City this week for the first session under Gov. Mike Parson. There’s a host of issues on the agenda for General Assembly’s 100th session, and here’s a look at the major ones.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

The Buck O’Neil Bridge just north of downtown is one of more hectic traffic spots in Kansas City, Missouri, and for Shari H, a car accident here in 2012 turned out to be life-changing.

She didn’t have any major injuries, but after days and weeks passed, she realized that her post-accident soreness wasn’t going away.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Long before Eric Kirkwood of Kansas City, Kansas, had his first sickle cell crisis at age 17, he knew about the pain caused by the disease. His uncle and sister had the genetic disorder, which causes blood cells to clump together and cut off circulation, leaving many patients with pain they describe like being squeezed in a vise.

“I’ve been in so much pain that I’m like ‘Why am I not dying?’” Kirkwood said. “It’s really like torture.”

A white woman in a dark blazer with shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair smiling broadly.
Rhododendrites / Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Renowned historian discusses the influences that made four presidents great leaders.

When it comes down to it, 50 years of presidential scholarship has convinced Doris Kearns Goodwin that great leaders are made, not born. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books on former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson talked about the individual trajectories that brought each of them to the national crises they faced as president.

Frank Morris / KCUR/NPR

The sharp rise in opioid abuse and fatal overdoses has overshadowed another mounting drug problem: Methamphetamine use is rising across the country.

“Usage of methamphetamine nationally is at an all-time high,” says Erik Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Kansas City office.

frankieleon / Flickr - CC

Segment 1: Government agencies suing pharmaceutical companies look to legal lessons learned from previous settlement against Big Tobacco.

A class-action lawsuit against tobacco companies in the late 1990s netted hundreds of billions of dollars, compensating states for costs associated with treating tobacco-related illness. Now, a comparable strategy could help defray the money cities, counties, and states are shelling out to deal with the opioid crisis. Today, an attorney involved in both cases explained the differences and similarities involved in each.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The VA Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, has made a few changes after receiving a letter from U.S. representatives from Missouri and Kansas that detailed veterans' concerns about the quality of care.

Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department

Starting in the mid-1990s, Capt. Dan Cummings worked as an undercover cop going after meth suppliers in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

He had grown up seeing what meth could do, so for him the work was personal.

“When I was a kid, a cousin brought a bag of this white powder in and said, ‘Man, hey, you gotta try this stuff. Man, you can go forever,’” Cummings says. “He did. He’s now passed on.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A day after her son Asher was born, state social workers paid a visit to Amber Johnson in the hospital. She had tested positive for meth, marijuana and painkillers during her pregnancy and, fearful she would lose her son, told them about her addiction.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

When Victoria Worden of Kansas City was pregnant with her fourth child, she was addicted to heroin and hated herself for it.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several members of a task force formed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to address the opioid crisis claim his refusal to consider Medicaid expansion undermines their work.

Jackson County has become the latest government body to sue drug companies and distributors for their alleged complicity in the opioid epidemic.

The suit, filed on Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City, names dozens of businesses, including drug giants like Johnson & Johnson and pharmacies like CVS. It says at least 308 people in Jackson County died of opioid overdoses between 2013 and 2017.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

When Cody Goodwin, of Independence, Missouri, was 24, he had already been hooked on opioids, including heroin, for years. His sister decided jail was the only way he could be cut off from drugs, so she reported him to the police.

Over the last six years, enough opioids were shipped to the state of Missouri to give every resident 260 pills.

The finding comes from a report released Thursday by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. It's the latest in a series of investigations by the senator into the role of drugmakers, distributors and other industry players in fueling the opioid epidemic.

file photo / Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas House committee on Thursday recommended the legalization of medicinal supplements containing cannabidiol, CBD, a marijuana extract used by some to control seizures and pain.

It also moved to keep an herbal stimulant, kratom, legal in Kansas.

White residents in Missouri are dying at a higher rate than they did nearly two decades ago, according to a report from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The increased death rate largely is occurring in the state's rural counties, especially in the Ozarks and the Bootheel region and substance abuse appears to be a major factor. For example, deaths by drug overdose have increased by nearly 600 percent in many rural counties. Poor mental health also plays a significant role, as suicides among young and middle-aged adults have increased by 30 percent since 1995. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Renea Molden’s doctors told her they wanted to take her off hydrocodone pills. 

“I was mad,” Molden says. “I’ll be honest. I was mad. I was frustrated.”

The 39-year-old woman from Kansas City struggles with pain caused by fibromyalgia, herniated spinal discs and degenerative disc disease. She says the three opioid pills a day that doctors wanted her to stop taking seemed to be the only way she could make it through work, go shopping or even fix dinner.

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