St. Joseph County officials open dialogue about opioid epidemic

Published: Aug. 2, 2017 at 7:27 PM EDT
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In the wake of Dr. Todd Graham's senseless murder last week, community leaders are now opening a dialogue about the opioid crisis in St. Joseph County.

Wednesday afternoon, police and fire officials, first responders and local physicians addressed the ongoing concern regarding opioid abuse in the county.

This after a beloved orthopedic doctor, Todd Graham was killed by a patient's husband on July 26. Police say the suspect became angry after Graham refused to fill a prescription for pain medication.

Now, officials want to be sure both doctors and patients are safe when physicians do and do not prescribe pain medication.

"The medical community has been working toward solutions for the opioid epidemic and in light of recent events, we realize that we can no longer do this on our own," said Dr. Nicole Riordan, an Emergency Physician at Memorial Hospital.

Recent events calling everyone to come together.

“I didn't just decide that, 'oh we have an opioid crisis because of what happened to Dr. Graham.' What we all have come to understand is that we can't do it alone,” said Prosecutor Ken Cotter, St. Joseph County. "I think in working together with our medical community we can make it not only a safer place, but we can make our lives more enjoyable the way people want to live."

Doctors said the cause of addiction was pharmaceutical companies pushing them to prescribe opioids, not knowing the consequences.

According to Dr. Mark Thompson, a general vascular surgeon, he said last year there were 109 prescriptions for every 100 Hoosiers, a 'staggering' statistic.

Dr. Thompson said doctors are looking for alternative methods for their patients to actually deal with pain instead of masking it.

"The vast majority of pain physicians do nothing but take people off of narcotics because they appreciate all they're doing is masking the pain, they're doing nothing to treat the underlying cause," Dr. Thompson said.

To do your part in fighting the opioid crisis, Prosecutor Ken Cotter asks that you also join the conversation. He says, the greater the awareness, the better the chance at winning this battle.

Additionally, Becky Savage of the 525 Foundation urges you to dispose of unused medication. Her two sons died from an accidental overdose.

"If you have it and you're not using it, get rid of it because that's what people in the community, even if they don't have a problem, people are stealing them," Savage said. "Just get it out of your house."

You can dispose of unused medication at police stations, fire departments and local hospitals.

Doctors on Wednesday said over half of people who misuse medications get them from a shelf at home or a relative.