Creating Greater Awareness About The Growing Opioid Epidemic in Iowa

The opioid epidemic in Iowa is starting to affect more and more families within our Iowa communities, so raising awareness throughout the state is more important than ever. This video series, created by UCS Healthcare and sponsored in part by Polk County Health Department, takes an inside look at how quickly the opioid epidemic is growing and the impact it has made in local communities. We’ve interviewed healthcare providers that are combating substance use disorders with medication assisted treatment (MAT) and other treatment services, patients who share their journey through opioid recovery and other public organizations that create awareness of the opioid epidemic and develop tools and opioid education programs to help fight the issue. Along with our staff and our patients, we appreciate the participation of:

  • Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse

  • Polk County Health Department

  • United Way of Central Iowa

  • City of Des Moines Fire Department

  • City of Des Moines Police Department

  • Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition

  • Full Spectrum Productions

UCS Healthcare is part of the IDPH Integrated Provider Network, with services funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Watch the videos below to learn more, or scroll further to see a description of each interview topic. PLEASE NOTE: On the top right of the viewer window below, there is a playlist icon. From that menu, you can choose which video you would like to watch. You can also view all of the videos on our UCS Healthcare YouTube channel.

Close to Home: How Iowa’s Opioid Epidemic Affects Individuals & Their Loved Ones

Episode 1: The Scope of the Opioid Epidemic Problem in Iowa

We’ll start off this opioid educational series by explaining more about the opioid epidemic that’s quickly growing in Iowa, and how this problem is dominant in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world. Kevin Gabbert, the Opioid Initiatives Director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, discusses the rapid increase of opioid use and overdoses in Iowa in the last five years and the three main goals that drive his efforts to fight the crisis:

  • reduce opioid misuse

  • prevent opioid overdose

  • expand medication assisted treatment (MAT)

Episode 2: Overview of UCS Healthcare’s Services - Opioid Addiction Treatment & More

The second episode features our CEO, Jen Pearson, who explains the many years of experience UCS Healthcare has as the leaders of substance use disorder treatment and mental health services in Iowa. She goes on to discuss future plans for how UCS Healthcare intends to expand their peer support services to give community members more opioid use disorder awareness and support opportunities.

Gabbert and Dr. Frank Filippelli, the Medical Director and primary medication assisted treatment provider at UCS, continue to discuss the effectiveness of MAT when assisting patients. Medication assisted treatment can be a lengthy process, as it is recommended to continue for at least one year to increase chances of long-term opioid recovery. It’s been proven that the benefits of combining counseling with medication can give patients about an 80% success rate.

Episode 3: Co-occurring Disorders: Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders

Almost all patients that come into UCS Healthcare have a co-occurring mental health issue along with their substance use disorder. The patient will sometimes cover up an underlying problem by using opioids or other substances. Learn more about UCS Healthcare’s best practices of treating the patient’s whole health, including mental health services, from our Organizational Psychologist, Dr. Paul Ascheman and therapists Katelyn Wyss (formerly with UCS Healthcare) and Larry Hejtmanek.

Episode 4: Family Issues With Addiction - Offering Support to Families Affected by The Opioid Epidemic

One of the most important reasons to increase awareness of the opioid epidemic is because the impact of addiction and recovery is widespread, affecting individuals struggling with substances and their loved ones. UCS Healthcare counselor and Care Coordinator, Michelle Cross, explains the positive influence on a patient when a family chooses to be involved in the opioid recovery process. We host a free family support group at our Des Moines location every Tuesday night from 6:30-7:30 p.m. for affected loved ones. This family support group follows a four-week alcohol and drug education course and discusses other challenges the friends and family members may experience.

Episode 5: Loving Advocates - Stories of How Opioid Recovery Affects Family Members

As a mother of a person who was a heroin addict, Susan Myers, one of our outpatient counselors at UCS, knows first-hand how difficult the opioid recovery process can be on both the individual going through opioid addiction treatment and their family members. She explains how essential it is for family members to be involved in their lives and be there for support. It will not be an easy process, but communication is key. Learn more about the perspective of loved ones during this journey and her personal story about her daughter’s opiate addiction.

Episode 6: Naloxone/Narcan Access & Training - Preparing Loved Ones to Help During an Opioid Overdose

If someone believes a loved one is using opioids, another way family and friends can prepare themselves is by carrying Narcan nasal spray, a form of Naloxone. This drug temporarily blocks the effects of opioids and should be administered in the event of an opioid overdose. Pharmacist and State of Iowa Representative, John Forbes, RPh, explains how Narcan can be a life-saving drug, and goes in-depth on laws that have been passed in recent years that have made it easier for loved ones to access it. At UCS Healthcare, we believe in a harm reduction model and provide Narcan training to our patients. UCS Healthcare pharmacist, Candice Prashad, demonstrates best practices in this video.

Opioid Education: Learning About the Various Types of Opioid Recovery Journeys

Learn more about the different journeys our patients in opioid addiction treatments go through during the opioid recovery process. During National Recovery Month in September, we released a blog about personal stories of opiate addiction, what influences individuals to start using and what it’s like going through opioid recovery.

Episode 7: Natasha & Andrew’s Opioid Recovery Stories

With the help of medication assisted treatment, UCS Healthcare helped this couple move on to lead productive lives. Natasha decided to start recovery from her co-occurring disorders once she found out she was pregnant. Although there was a relapse in her opioid recovery process, she is now very happy to be in recovery and rebuild her life. Her fiance, Andrew, took a little longer to stop using various substances, but after losing his mom to a substance use disorder and realizing he didn’t want his children to go through the same heartache, he knew he had to change his life.

Episode 8: Angela’s Opioid Recovery Story

Angela suffered many tragedies throughout life, including the death of family members, abuse and other situations that led her to turn to various substances. She has been to multiple opioid addiction treatment facilities, but Angela feels like the combination of MAT and counseling offered at UCS Healthcare made a huge difference in focusing on recovery.

Episode 9: Crystal’s Opioid Recovery Story

Like many others affected by the opioid epidemic, Crystal became addicted to painkillers when she was given opioids after a serious accident. Opioids are meant to provide pain relief, but can become addictive, which may lead to a substance use disorder. After overdosing, she decided it was time to start medication assisted treatment with therapy including mental health counseling and group therapy.

Episode 10: Jasmin’s Opioid Recovery Story

Jasmin was exposed to substance use at an early age, and has seen many drug overdoses within her family. Her addiction started when she was given Vicodin for a back injury. Then she started turning to various substances to deal with grief. Her inspiration to achieve recovery was to set a good example for her daughters in hopes that they don’t make the same mistakes she and other family members had made.

Episode 11: Shannon’s Opioid Recovery Story

Some individuals begin using substances as a means of feeling better and to partake in social situations. These individuals think they will be able to quit whenever they choose. However, they don’t realize they’re dependent on the substance until it’s too late and they’re already addicted. This is how Shannon describes his experience with opioids. He didn’t realize he needed opioid addiction treatment until he had lost his job, wife and much more.

Episode 12: Matt’s Opioid Recovery Story

Matt has lost multiple friends to opioid addiction, which made him realize that he needed to seek help. He explains the importance of spreading awareness about the opioid epidemic since it can happen to people in all walks of life, even those you wouldn’t expect. Matt believes his opioid recovery journey could inspire himself to some day become a counselor so he can help others in recovery.

The Growing Opioid Epidemic in Iowa and the Need For Awareness

Iowa’s substance use has increased in recent years and led to an opioid epidemic that’s had an impact on local first responders and health departments. Through our partnerships with many health organizations and public service departments serving Iowa, we’re able to hear their perspective on the situation. We appreciate their cooperation to reinforce the need for more opioid awareness, and UCS Healthcare wants to thank them for their work that helps save the lives of affected citizens throughout the state of Iowa.

Episode 13: Opioid Education From First Responders - Featuring The Des Moines Fire Department

As a first responder, Nadine Sechovec, a Senior Medic at the Des Moines Fire Department, has approached many different scenes involving an opioid overdose situation. She leads one of the busiest stations in the metro, and has noticed they’ve had to use life-saving drugs much more frequently in the last few years even compared to what they used to go through about 5-10 years ago. Nadine talks about the impact of an overdose on the patient’s family members and friends as well as on the first responders who are there to help them.

Episode 14: Opioid Education About Harm Reduction - Featuring The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition

The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition (IHRC) advocates to influence policy change through state legislation, and they are a Naloxone distribution center for substance users that recognize the danger and likelihood of an opioid overdose. Sarah Ziegenhorn explains more about IHRC’s work to spread opioid awareness among communities and to help users who are hoping to live in recovery.

Episode 15: Opioid Education From Law Enforcement - Featuring The Des Moines Police Department

UCS Healthcare always has an off-duty member of the Des Moines Police Department at our main facility to provide a safe environment for our patients and administration. Officer Cynthia Donahue shares what her experience has been like while working with our team members, and how she enjoys seeing patients go through the opioid addiction treatment process and go on to live in recovery.

Episode 16: Polk County Health Department Encourages Opioid Epidemic Awareness

The Polk County Health Department educates the community on all health topics, but they also lead the opiate task force, which involves community-wide efforts that encourage prevention. Nola Aigner says this can be accomplished through opioid education efforts, making citizens aware of prevention resources and eliminating barriers to treatment. Learn more about all of Polk County Health Department’s many efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in Iowa, including teaching classes at UCS Healthcare.

Episode 17: United Way’s 211 Texting App Promotes Access to Opioid Education Resources & Help

We understand talking about addiction can be uncomfortable for some, or some people might not know where to go for help, so the 211 texting app makes it easy to get the opioid education and treatment information you’re looking for. United Way of Central Iowa’s representative, Amanda Arrasmith-Kerr, explains that by texting “opioid” to 898-211, users can follow a few different paths for assistance, depending on whether they’re a concerned friend, seeking help for themselves or a provider for opioid addiction treatment. This gives the public a quick and confidential alternative to access help for a substance use disorder.

UCS Healthcare is the Largest Provider of Local Medication Assisted Treatment in Iowa

We hope this video series gives Iowans a better perspective on why we need to increase awareness of the opioid epidemic and learn what resources are available to individuals seeking recovery and their families. If you or someone close to you is seeking opioid addiction treatment, UCS Healthcare offers medication assisted treatment (MAT)mental health therapy and much more to assist people through their addiction and into recovery. Our providers want to treat your whole health so you can focus on the other aspects of your life that truly matter. If you have questions about substance use disorders, addiction or you’re seeking additional resources, contact UCS Healthcare today.

UCS Healthcare is part of the IDPH Integrated Provider Network, with services funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This video series was supported in part financially by Polk County Health Department.