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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri Council voted Thursday to expand its efforts fighting the opioid epidemic, but specifically, the fentanyl epidemic.
City leaders said the response will approach the issue more like a public health emergency, requiring faster overdose reporting.
Previously, it might take years to get that information. But that’s changing. The new requirement on hospital is that overdoses will need to be reported within one day.
The Kansas City Health Department already has this requirement for other illnesses.
Chief Science Officer Alex Francisco said COVID-19 cases need to be reported within a day. More serious issues, like anthrax, have a one hour reporting time.
The new ordinance, to take effect on January 1, 2024, adds overdoses on to that list.
“Overdose death numbers surpassed our homicide numbers in 2021, and in 2022 there was only one day in Kansas City without a suspected overdose in city emergency rooms,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
During a news conference, Lucas acknowledged that the fentanyl crisis is not new but it’s persistent, if not growing.
Sgt. Aaron Benson with KCPD’s Drug Investigation Squad Described commonly found pills, stamped ‘M-30,’ often having inconsistent amounts of fentanyl.
“That’s kind of the primary narcotic we’re seeing. We’re also seeing a powder form,” Benson said.
“We’ve had a couple cases in general where people snap one pill in half and one person overdosed from one half and they other half they did not. That just kind of shows the inconsistencies of those,” Benson said.
“Everybody is referring to the opioid epidemic as an epidemic,” Francisco said. “And I’d like to say today we’re taking some of those steps to treat it as such.”
That includes the hiring of two new overdose investigators to be added to the city’s health department as well as an overdose prevention education campaign plus a mayor-appointed board to work toward solutions.
The work is not separate from current enforcement, Lucas said.
“This is not an issue that is as simple as saying ‘Let’s call KCPD, add three more detectives, and then we’ll have the problem taken care of forever.’ In the same way, however, that it’s not ‘We’ll just call the health department and they will be able to prevent by hiring three more investigators and two more psychiatrists,’ and call that a day,” Lucas said.
“We are recognizing that when you have this substantial of a concern, it actually takes very real consistent and coordinated cooperation across agencies in Kansas City and beyond,” Lucas said.