Jackson County, Mo. legislators approve funding to fight opioid crisis

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 8:40 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The “most urgent needs of the county” are being addressed, according to the Jackson County Legislature. Now, the fight against the opioid epidemic is getting a boost.

Social services programs are taking center stage in Jackson County this week, as $2 million have been approved.

“We knew that there had been a 149% increase in deaths caused by fentanyl every year,” said Budget Chair Manny Abarca. “That is a staggering number.”

That’s just one reason lawmakers are moving quickly to make a generational impact with the budget.

Kyle Mead with the Heartland Center for Behavioral Health is touting the importance of fighting the opioid crisis using proven resources, as opposed to solely prison time.

“We know, from data that goes back a long way, that for every one dollar invested in treatment we will save almost seven taxpayer dollars versus incarceration,” Mead said. “We have a much better probability of improving the quality of life and the outcomes for those individuals by investing in treatment up front.”

University Health will receive $1 million to help ongoing efforts to fight drugs. The rest will be split up between several behavioral health centers like Footprints, Inc. to assist with rehab and the homeless population.

“It seems like an answer to your prayer when, all of sudden, you get a phone call like this,” said Footprints, Inc. Clinical Director Stan Archie. “They told us that they really thought the work we’re doing is very compatible with the passions that they desire as a legislature.”

Vice Chair Megan Marshall said the effort was collaborative and intentional. She added that it’s evident certain parts of the county are in dire need of life-altering resources.

“Providing funds to those organizations who can specifically target those areas, and provide resources to the communities across the counties that need it the most in an equitable way,” Marshall said. “It is something that has been a focus of our legislature.”

The new legislature hosted three public meetings last week to give constituents a chance to provide input on community priorities before the annual budget was approved.

The legislature also moved $74 million of ARPA funds to another account. The goal is to give them more involvement in how that money is spent.