Addicted Oklahoma: The plan to battle the prescription drug crisis
OKLAHOMA CITY- Addicted Oklahoma is a Fox 25 investigation of the state's problem with prescription drugs.
State stats indicate one in 12 Oklahomans abuse prescription painkillers.
Prescription drug addiction is an undeniable problem in Oklahoma.
The state says it wants to stop the crisis, and has released plans to turn the tide, but continued budget cuts are making change difficult to come by.
Truly Nash is a young mother with two young children. She lives at Jordan's Crossing for now, because she is a recovering drug addict.
Our sit down interview took place in the rehab's family visitation room. Nash seems like a happy and chatty young woman. Once we started the interview, Nash didn't lose her smile or optimistic disposition, but the conversation turned more serious.
"I was on heroin for six years of my life. It's a horrible thing. You are sick all of the time without it. It's crazy to think that it all started with a prescription pill," Nash said.
She admits to using drugs while pregnant, and says she is surprised but thankful her kids are healthy.
I asked Nash, about her decision to be open, and talk about her addiction. She says it's tough to tell people you were looking for drugs while you were carrying a child, and talk about all the other mistakes that lead you to jail and then rehab, but that honesty about her past because is part of recovery.
"That is what start's everything. You think it is okay. You think it's a pill in a cabinet, and it's not. It's a pill in a cabinet for a second. You take it, and then it's two pills in a cabinet, and then you need three pills in the cabinet," said Nash.
For most addicts, after the pills comes heroin. Lindsay Perry is also in her early 20s, is a mother to a two year boy, and resident at Jordan's Crossing. She says her prescription drug addiction began in junior high, and she started using heroin before she graduated high school.
"I would be crying. Asking God to just please take it all away. Like, why do I keep wanting to put this in my body," Perry said.
In a sense, both of these women are lucky. Not all the people that need residential care for their addiction can get it in Oklahoma. Nash waited in jail for months before finding a space, and Jordan's Crossing allows women to stay with their kids.
Red Rock Behavioral Health owns the rehab and contracts with the state. CEO Verna Foust told Fox 25 they have had to turn people away. Only one third of the population is currently being served, and the problem starts with not enough funding.
"I hate it. It makes me sick. I have never seen a time when there was enough money," Foust said.
Behavioral health and addiction services will face more cuts this year, and that means the possibility of less available help.
"What really upsets me so much about that is that it costs us more money in the long run," Foust said
There is some headway, though. The statewide prescription monitoring program is working.
Doctors and pharmacists are now required to run a person's name through the PMP if they are trying to get opiates, and see a prescription history. The state says this helps stop pill shoppers, or those lying about a condition. There are no hard numbers, but law enforcement professionals told Fox 25 they have already heard success stories.
Mark Woodward with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said the key to fighting addiction is hitting it from different angles.
"If two years from now prescription drug deaths are cut in half, that would be wonderful we many never know for sure was that this law, was it education?" Woodward said.
Then there's the "Take As Prescribed" program. It includes a website with the aim of educating Oklahomans about the dangers of prescription drugs, and asking people to get rid of leftover medication at the over 178 drop sites across the state.
The lack of funding and this year's budget shortfalls are still weighing heavily on some minds.
"It breaks my heart. It really does, because I wouldn't be able to do it without somewhere like this place. I know, I know in my heart that I would be dead," Perry said.