Rural Law Enforcement, Health Officials Cope with Opioid Crisis

The State Journal-Register

By Maximilian Kwiatkowski 

Central Illinois’ rural counties are not exempt from the drug addiction epidemic ravaging households.

“Honestly, most people thought heroin was a city thing,” said Pat Schou, executive director of the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network. “But we quickly learned that wasn’t the case. It affects everyone.”

Starting in the mid 2000s, drug abuse, particularly methamphetamine use, has ramped up in rural communities, including places like Christian and Macoupin counties. But then opioids, legal or not, started to take hold, compounding into the crisis seen today. It’s had a profound effect on law enforcement and the medical community.

“The opiate problem has gone nowhere,” said Kent Tarro, an administrator for the Macoupin County Public Health Department. “It’s actually increased, but the meth problem has increased, too.”

Some opiate users are introduced to the drugs when using prescription pain killers, but they sometimes develop a dependency on them due to the awful side-effects from ceasing use, according to Tarro.

Most of the drugs come from Mexico to larger cities like St. Louis and Chicago and then get distributed down highways. Once it gets into a community, it becomes local law enforcement’s problem, too, causing overflows in county jails.

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