The majority of Walker County residents are not familiar with local treatment options for those struggling with opioid abuse, according to a survey conducted in July.
The telephone survey of 310 residents was conducted by Montgomery-based Southeast Research in July. The data is being used in the work of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, which is soon to become the Behavioral Health Priority Group within the Walker County Health Action Partnership.
Most of those surveyed, 66 percent, were either not sure if Walker County has a substance abuse opioid treatment facility or said that it did not. Thirty-four percent correctly responded that it does.
Only 21 percent of those surveyed could name a local treatment facility, and the most common response, "police/sheriff," does not offer treatment. Nineteen percent of those who named a facility identified law enforcement because of the Mercy Project, which started at the Cordova Police Department in 2017 and is now available at the Walker County Sheriff's Office.
Hope for Women was second on the list, and Walker Recovery, which administers methadone, and "methadone clinic" were third and fourth.
Local opioid treatment facilities were rated as fair or poor by 65 percent of respondents. Still, 62 percent said they would seek help from a treatment center if they or someone they knew were abusing opioids.
More than 37 percent of respondents knew someone dealing with opioid abuse, but only 26.5 percent knew someone getting help for the issue.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said there are no reasons that would prevent someone from getting treatment. Of those who did provide reasons, more than half cited finances or no treatment options in Walker County.
Nearly all of those surveyed, 96.7 percent, identified illegal drugs as a serious problem in Walker County, and 79 percent said opiate abuse was a very serious problem.
The most popular ideas for making Walker County healthier were more police enforcement (15 percent) and more treatment centers (15 percent).
Slightly more than half said addiction is a disease like diabetes or cancer. Forty-four percent said that it was not.
A majority, 55 percent, said people in Walker County are not understanding of local residents who are misusing or abusing opioids.
In spite of the problem's prevalence and data that suggests a person can develop a dependency in as little as four days, more than half said that they could prevent a family member from misusing or abusing opiates prescribed to them for pain.
Nearly half said the problem is caused by opiates being prescribed too often and being easy to get. The third most common reason given was addiction at 11.8 percent.
Almost half of households, 46 percent, reported having at least one member experiencing chronic pain and 35 percent had a member with a serious disability.
The survey also revealed an often overlooked consequence of substance use disorders.
Forty-three percent of respondents knew of someone on drugs who had either attempted or committed suicide. Among 18 to 39 years, the percentage increased to 58 percent.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or need help, please call the 24/7 helpline at 1-844-307-1760. Support specialists are certified by the Alabama Department of Mental Health. To learn more, visit rosshelpline4u.org.