Opioid Helpline Calls For Action


Opioid abuse and addiction has been called an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control. Misuse of these drugs causes thousands of deaths every year. Now, local groups are coming together to try and make a difference.

It’s a simple phone call. Just dial 211 any time on any day, and you’ll be connected to someone who knows exactly how to help you find the resources you need.

“You know, one of my favorite things about the Helpline Center is is that there’s no judgment on our part. People can call us and ask us anything and that is completely fine with us,” Janet Kittams, Helpline Center President, said. 

If you’ve never heard of it, the Helpline Center is a sort of one-stop-shop for a lot of different things. Operators are trained to help people find help with everything from housing needs, to suicide prevention, even volunteer opportunities; and now they’re focusing on opioids.

“It’s not the number one reason people call the Helpline but it’s right up there. So we felt comfortable stepping forward with the opioid crisis that, hey we’re here 24/7. We have the ability to build that resource database and get people connected to the appropriate resource,” Kittams said. 

“I think there was a need and the Helpline Center saw there was a way we could help. The state has a very comprehensive plan to address the opioid crisis and we just saw there was a piece of that plan that we could provide a solution to,” Betsy Schuster, Vice President of Program Development for Helpline Center, said. 

The Helpline Center’s piece is being the middle man. Callers can contact them when they’re not sure where to go or how to get started, or even if they’re too scared to go somewhere in person.

The hotline operators offer everything from counseling referrals, drug drop-off locations, and sometimes just a listening ear.

“There’s a few places in Sioux Falls that you can go,” the Helpline Center operator says. 

“We have so many resources in the state, but if you don’t know where to go, it’s hard to start. So that’s where the Helpline Center is taking that lead role. To really create a centralized place,” Schuster said.

According to the CDC, drug overdoses killed more than 63,000 people in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of those involved prescription or illicit opioids.

In 2012 there were 21 opioid related deaths in South Dakota. In 2017 there were 35. Most of those people are between the ages of 25 and 54.

That’s why the Helpline Center is trying to find new ways to reach people during this growing epidemic.

“Individuals can text ‘opioid’ to 898211 and that you can receive supportive messages and then you can also receive specific resources or start a live conversation with one of our specialists if you like,” said Schuster. 

The Helpline Center is also in the early stages of creating a Case Coordination program, to keep in touch with clients who need extra encouragement and accountability.

It’s all part of the mission to restore something a lot of people dealing with addiction feel they’ve lost.

“That there isn’t any hope. Like, what am I going to do? How am I going to get my loved one out of this terrible, terrible crisis? So I think if we can just let people know that we’re here 24/7 and sometimes it’s just being able to talk through what is happening,” Kittams said. “Being able to tell somebody about it. Because I feel there’s still so much stigma attached to it, people don’t feel comfortable talking about it, so we just want to be there for people.”

“Support, we’re here to help them get connected. A non-judgmental doorway in just if they have questions or whatever they’re looking for that they know that they can call 24/7 and get that support,” Schuster said.

To contact the Opioid Resource Hotline directly, you can call 1-800-920-4343. You can also check out the Departments of Health and Social Service’s Avoid Opioid website for more information.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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