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Johnson County takes action: First-ever opioid symposium aims to educate, empower against rising crisis

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Posted at 8:44 AM, Apr 17, 2024

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Communities across Kansas City have been raising their voices about the opioid epidemic, including Johnson County, which will host its first-ever opioid symposium Wednesday.

The county said 200 community members are expected at the Arts and Heritage Center for the event.

Attendees will hear from speakers who have been impacted by the opioid crisis, and the hope is that people will leave with an understanding of ways they can help.

Sierra Wright with the Johnson County Mental Health Center said oftentimes it’s a lack of education about opioids and the danger of fentanyl that can lead to overdoses and deaths in youth.

The county reported the average age for first drug use in Kansas is around 12-13 years old.

“We know that there can be a relationship between youth maybe not having the skills to cope with stress and anxiety and all of those peer pressures that they’re experiencing and in turn turning toward substances to cope with that, and so I think the really interesting part about fentanyl today is just potentially that even that experimentation into trying it even just one time can be deadly,” Wright said.

The county can help connect people with free resources like Narcan and medication disposal pouches.

“We hope that folks leave with an understanding of ways that can help to prevent both fatal and non-fatal overdoses within the county,” Wright said.

The county has seen a rise in opioid abuse over the last few years, especially in teens.

From 2020-2023, Johnson County reported opioid abuse in teens at the county treatment center went up 40%, which Wright said is why such education and awareness is important.