Peter Komendowski.

The president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa is holding a series of town hall meetings across Iowa to talk about the growing opioid epidemic.

During a meeting last night in Webster City, Peter Komendowski says the problem is already bad and it’ll likely get worse, but he says we can all play a constructive role in limiting the damage.

Komendowski says, “We have more knowledge, more information, a good community resource with the people that organized this meeting to give ideas to parents, caregivers, grandparents, educators and even businesses to help mitigate the problem with substance abuse, especially to deter some of the opioid-related problems that are happening all over the country, and reduce the economic cost.” Komendowski says Iowa’s business community needs to take particular note of the opioid epidemic and become much more active, as it will otherwise be very costly.

“The irony is that when you have one of the highest absentee rates in a company and you’ll expect me to say it’s a substance abuser, but it’s not,” he says. “It’s the non-substance abuser that is caring for a substance abuser at home. Ten times the absentee rate, because they’re your best employees who are essentially staying home to cure the family. It’s the kind of people you want working for you.” Deaths from opioid overdoses are much higher on the East Coast and he says this is a different sort of war on drugs.

“The war is moving from East to West and Iowa is in the path and the more we do and the knowledge we have with what they’ve learned out East, we know how to do things that will not only reduce the impact of the problem, but maybe avoid a lot of the impact,” Komendowski says. “They predict in Iowa, the peak of the opioid crisis is five to seven years away, which means we have time to prepare before it’s supposed to be at its worst.”

He says opioids have a casualty rate of 175 people per day nationwide, or 65,000 deaths per year. State health officials say there were just over 200 opioid-related overdose deaths in Iowa last year.

(Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City contributed to this report.)