Federal funds to help Kansas fight opioid crisis, target children at higher risk of drug abuse

Kansas Department of Health and Environment notes sharp rise in drug overdose deaths in the last decade

By: - December 30, 2022 11:00 am
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says Kansas experienced a 54% surge in drug overdose fatalities in the first six months of 2021 compared to that period in 2020. KDHE attributed about 45% of those deaths to ingestion of fentanyl, which is often added to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. (Getty Images)

Federal funding for opioid overdose prevention will be used in a program aimed at helping Kansas children avoid future drug addiction. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — Millions in funding for child drug addiction prevention will be poured into Kansas communities where children are more at risk of exposure to opioids and drug abuse.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration announced the funding Thursday, saying the Kansas Department of Health and Environment received nearly $3 million from the U.S. Department of Justice to address problems with opioid and drug overdoses in the state. 

The funding will be used in the KDHE’s All Hands on DECK program, which plans on working with Kansas communities that have substance abuse issues. 

The project’s mission is to help Kansas children exposed to drugs, along with increasing public safety and reducing overdose deaths. Kansas tribes will be part of the project, including the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox tribes. 

“It is critical that we make resources and help available to stop the impact of drug addiction on our children,” Kelly said in the news release. “This funding will be instrumental in curbing the generational impact drugs have on Kansas families.”

Opioid abuse has been a growing problem in the state. A September KDHE report on opioid vulnerability reported a quick rise in Kansas drug overdose deaths over the last ten years, with a 73.5% rise in these deaths from 2011 to 2020. More than half of overdose deaths in 2020 were related to opioids. Of these 254 opioid deaths, 64.3% involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. 

Statistics released by KDHE in a 2021 summary showed a similar increase in opioid cases and drug-related deaths. In 2021, Kansas had the highest number of drug-related deaths recorded in the last 20 years, with opioid cases nearly doubling between 2020 and 2021. 

The number of accidental deaths caused by drugs went from 432 cases in 2020 to 635 cases in 2021.  Opioids were involved in 416 of these deaths in 2021, compared with 239 similar deaths in 2020. Kansas counties most at risk of opioid overdoses included Labette, Sedgwick, Allen, Harper, Crawford, Brown, Wilson, Leavenworth, Shawnee, Douglas and Atchison, along with several others. 

 Kelly’s office estimated that 140,860 children across the state live with caregivers who have substance abuse issues, and that about 5,155 Kansas infants are born exposed to substances every year.  Children growing up in drug-endangered environments are more likely to face health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, and also more likely to experience substance abuse issues, according to Kelly’s office. 

“This important All Hands on DECK funding is an investment in Kansas children and a lifeline for family members with substance use disorder,” KDHE  State Health Officer Joan Duwve said in the news release. “The funds will provide the support needed to implement DECK coalitions in six funded communities and will help to increase education and awareness of drug-endangered children in Kansas.” 

Visit PreventOverdoseKS.org for resources, epidemiological data and information on Kansas’ efforts to prevent drug overdose. Those in need of assistance can call Kansas’ SUD hotline at (866) 645-8216 or visit FindTreatment.gov to locate treatment services.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.