Overdose deaths increasing in Kansas, McPherson responds


By Jessie Wagoner


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) recently announced Kansas saw a 54 percent increase in drug overdoses in the first six months of 2021. At least 338 Kansas residents have died of a drug overdose between Jan. 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Only 220 drug overdose deaths were reported during the same timeframe in 2020. 


Types of overdose


According to the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), of the 338 deaths, 49 involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, 149 involved methamphetamine and 40 involved other licit and illicit drugs, such as cocaine, benzodiazepines and prescription opioids. More than one drug can be involved in a fatal drug overdose, so these values are not mutually exclusive.

“In 2021, two deaths reported to us were caused by illegal drug overdoses, both involving fentanyl,” Administrative Captain Mark Brinck, with the McPherson Police Department, said. 

KDHE says that Fentanyl continues to drive the uptick in fatal drug overdoses in Kansas for a variety of reasons. 

“This is largely attributed to increased availability, accessibility and use of illegally manufactured fentanyl statewide,” KDHE says. “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is often combined with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, or used as a standalone drug. Due to its potency, fentanyl-involved overdoses have a fast onset and may be difficult to reverse.”

Though Kansas is seeing a large increase in the number of overdose deaths, McPherson has not seen the same level. 

“Over the past couple of years, the McPherson Police Department has seen an increase in illegal drug overdoses and deaths caused by illegal drugs,” Brinck said. “Even one death from an overdose is a significant tragedy. Fortunately, we have not seen as much of an increase as other cities across the U.S.  In 2021, two deaths reported to us were caused by illegal drug overdoses, both involving fentanyl. When we are made aware of a drug overdose involving illegal drugs, we investigate what happened and do what we can to hold those who contributed responsible through the court system.”

The McPherson Police Department asks anyone with information regarding drug activity or criminal activity, to call the McPherson Police Department at (620) 245-1266 or report the information anonymously to McPherson County Crime Stoppers at (620) 241-1122 or via their Facebook page.


Help is available

Licensed Addiction Counselor Brenton Swortwood with CKF Addiction Treatment in McPherson says they are seeing an uptick in overdoses with their patients in the McPherson Community. But, he says help is available to assist those struggling with addiction. 

While COVID has changed how CKF is providing services, there are still a wealth of resources available for those in need. Swortwood says the road to recovery first starts with an assessment where a counselor will collect information from the client to determine what types of services would be most beneficial. 

“During the assessment, we will gather a lot of client history, their substance abuse history, mental health history, family and social history,” Swortwood said. “It helps us see what they qualify for treatment-wise.” 

CKF has access to several different grants to ensure those in need of treatment can receive services, even if they are low-income or uninsured. They even have grant money available to offer treatment services for opiate addiction specifically. That particular grant will also pay for appointments with one of the health care providers who can prescribe medication to help with addiction, as well as cover the cost of the medication if the client uses a specific pharmacy. 

Once the assessment is completed, clients are assigned to either the intensive outpatient or another outpatient program. The intensive outpatient program meets three times a week while the outpatient program meets two times a week. Most individuals transition from the intensive outpatient program to the outpatient program in about 90 days. They often remain in the outpatient program for another 90 days. However, Swortwood says the timeframes can be shortened or lengthened based on client needs and if they have used any substances during the treatment period. 

“Throughout the treatment process we have a team approach,” Swortwood said. “The counselor meets with the physician and patient to ensure connectedness between the treatment team.” 

Clients also have access to support from a peer mentor, also known as a recovery coach. Each client can meet bi-monthly with a recovery coach, someone who is currently in recovery themselves and understands the process. Those meetings are done either in person or through telehealth and provide another layer of support for those battling addiction. 

Swortwood says even though the process can be challenging, it is possible for people to achieve and maintain sobriety. He chose his profession because he wants to help people as much as he can and he is passionate about his career choice. Just a few years ago, Swortwood returned to school to get a master’s degree; he applied for a scholarship and received it based on a paper he had to write about his mission statement. 

“My mission is to assist people who cannot afford treatment,” Swortwood said. “I have a lot of grant funding we can access to make sure people can access treatment no matter their income level.” 


12-step programs

Many individuals have found success and support through 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. McPherson does have an active 12-step community that offers several meetings throughout the week. 

One Alcoholics Anonymous group meets at 216 S. Main. They meet at 10 a.m. on Sunday and also at 12:10 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. All of those meetings are open, meaning anyone can attend. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, they hold an all-women’s AA meeting. 

The Firehouse AA Group meets at the Municipal Building in the upstairs conference room. They have a closed meeting, only for alcoholics at 8 p.m. on Monday. They also have open meetings at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday. 

“There is a lot of long-term sobriety in that group,” Swortwood said. 

The NA group meets at 216 S. Main, in the same location as the AA group. NA meetings are held at 6 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, 8 p.m., Friday and 6 p.m., Saturday. 

To schedule an intake assessment or to learn more about the treatment services provided by CKF, call 785-825-6224 or visit www.ckfaddictiontreatment.org/