Two hundred people died of opioid overdoses in Iowa last year. Experts say the wait for getting into a drug treatment program in Iowa is sometime as long as 10 weeks.

“It’s literally like telling somebody that’s having a heart attack to come back in 10 weeks when your bed’s available,” Malissa Spranger of Mercy Turning Point Treatment Center in Dubuque said Monday. “What we’re seeing is patients returning to their communities and, unfortunately, ending up deceased.”

Iowa legislators conveneded a two-day hearing on the opioid epidemic yesterday. Deborah Thompson of the Iowa Department of Public Health told lawmakers her personal story.

“Today would have been my seventh wedding anniversary and so I felt compelled to speak to you all about this issue because I have a unique perspective on it,” Thompson said. “My husband, Joe Thompson, passed away from an accidental heroin overdose last September. He left me and his one-year-old son, Lincoln.”

Joe became addicted to pain killers after a serious auto accident. Deborah said the doctor treated her husband’s pain with a “fire hose” of pain killers. The number of opioid pills sold in Iowa is predicted to decline this year, but — still — about 90 opioid pills will be sold for each man, woman and child in the state.

Some physicians resist limiting the number of pain pills per prescription. Kathie Lyman, executive director of the Polk County Medical Society, was among those who testified yesterday.

“This isn’t the way to treat this opioid crisis that we have,” she said, expressing doctors’ opinion that: “I know better how to prescribe medicines for the patient than the insurance company does.”

Lawmakers will hear another full day of testimony today about the opioid epidemic and policy prescriptions to deal with the crisis.

(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)