A Southwest Missouri city, suffering an outbreak of October drug overdoses, including four deaths, held a summit this week to evaluate how to combat the escalating crisis.
“Some folks in our community say when (overdose) happens, they deserve that,” Clay Goddard of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department told the Springfield News-Leader. “I want to push back on that. ... I’m not going to turn my back on people who are struggling with addiction.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley wants officials around the state to have more resources to keep pushing back.
Hawley sent a letter on Wednesday to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration seeking federal help for Missouri in the fight.
“I want them to really zero in and focus on our state, because it’s becoming an epidemic,” the senator told News-Press NOW in an interview this week.
Specifically, Hawley has asked the DEA to assign people with experience in heroin-fentanyl enforcement to look into the series of overdoses. Such aid, he said, could trace drugs to their point of origin.
“They can surge resources into local communities, to help communities figure out where the drugs are coming from, to help figure out if there is cartel involvement, drug trafficking involvement and then what law enforcement options are available to turn off the flow,” the Republican lawmaker said.
From the White House drug control office, funding could come from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. However, Hawley pointed out in his letter that the Midwest designation of this program covers a broad area, 72 counties in seven states, from North Dakota to Missouri.
“The structure and size of the Midwest HIDTA hinders the effective coordination and distribution of resources to fight drug trafficking in Missouri and throughout the region,” he wrote.
While the immediate concern arose from the Springfield incidents, which included 40 overdoses in a short stretch, the senator said all parts of his state suffer from the drug influx.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 16 counties in Northwest Missouri had 98 opioid overdose deaths from 2013 through 2017. Buchanan had the most during that period, with 30.
“The truth is, it happens in all our communities across the state,” Hawley said.
Hawley’s fellow Missouri senator, Roy Blunt, chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health spending by the federal government. Earlier in the fall, the panel’s funding bill included $3.9 billion for fighting the opioid crisis, an increase of $70 from the previous appropriation.
“This bill continues the fight against the opioid epidemic and provides states more flexibility to tackle other types of addiction that are claiming lives every day,” Blunt, also a Republican, said at the time.