A police officer is reporting the heroin epidemic in eastern Iowa is worse than originally thought. In 2015, Cedar Rapids police responded to 61 heroin-related overdoses. But, Officer Al Fear checked with hospitals in the city and found the real number may be closer to 300.
Fear told KCRG-TV that a lot of people go directly to the hospital and don’t get included in police reports. “It’s a much bigger problem than we once thought,” Fear said. He’s leading a new program called the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative.
Dale Woolery, the associate director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, says heroin use is growing around Iowa, but especially over the eastern third of the state. “That’s where we see the largest increase in heroin use. A lot of it is coming from Illinois,” Woolery told KCRG. Law enforcement and prosecutors joined forces for a town hall meeting about heroin this week at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
Officer Fear said 85 percent of people currently using heroin start by abusing prescription pain killers. “Their prescription runs out and next thing you know they need the high, they need their body to still have that substance. So, then they turn to heroin because it’s cheaper on the street and it’s easy to get,” Fear said.
Janet Andrews knows all about the dangers. She spoke at the town hall about how she lost her husband. “My late husband was addicted to pain pills, after an injury, and then it just kind of – over the years – it took a toll and kind of spiraled out of control,” Andrews said. She said her husband eventually took his own life about a year ago.