Sedgwick County declares opioid crisis a public nuisance

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) The opioid crisis was declared a nation-wide health emergency by President Donald Trump just two months ago.

On Wednesday, Sedgwick County commissioners declared it a public nuisance with 135 deaths linked to opioid use in 2016 alone.

Rachel Harper, program coordinator at Options Adult Services treatment center in Wichita, says these addictions often stem from things as simple as an injury.

"It starts out as just, they have pain. Whether it was in a car accident or a work accident and they go to the doctor because they have pain and the next thing you know, it's out of control," Harper said.

Harper adds it doesn't take long for this addiction to change peoples' lives.

"What they struggle with is being able to maintain jobs, maintain their living, their families, because of their drug addiction," Harper said.

Declaring the opioid crisis a "public nuisance" is something commissioners hope will make it easier for them to litigate against drug manufacturers and distributors they say may have failed to report large and suspicious distributions of painkillers in the county.

If the lawsuits prove successful, the money would be used to help fund programs to help fight the issue before it gets worse.

"We have not seen as many overdose deaths as other parts of the country have seen, but I know it's only a matter of time until we start seeing those," Harper said.