The Heroin Battle Part 2

By: Amanda Compton-Ortiz

DeSoto County Sherrif’s Sgt. Mike Cowan is on a mission to help combat the drug epidemic that’s sweeping across the nation.

Cowan said the department does work with drug abusers in their custody to get them the help they need, he would like to see more programs in place in DeSoto County and throughout the State of Mississippi to help curb the problem.

“We understand that jail time does not equal rehabilitation,” he said. “…We need have more ways for them to get help and get off this stuff.”

Cowan said over the last several years, the number of heroin overdose calls the department has received has risen significantly.

“The amount of calls patrolmen are dispatched to and the number of actual cases the narcotics division is working is growing exponentially,” he said, “with a huge increase in the heroin market.”

Cowan cited Caucasian males between the ages of 18 and 25 make up the majority of heroin arrests in the county.

He added that the number of opioid abusers who are rearrested in the area is also on the rise.

Cowan said, according to statistics from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN), between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2016, the State of Mississippi had 563 reported drug overdose deaths, with 85 percent of those deaths or approximately 481 caused by opioids.

The MBN reported that in 2016 there were over 201 million dosage units of opioids dispensed in Mississippi. Based on the state’s population of 2.9 million citizens this equates to about 70 dosage units for every man, woman and child in the state.

Those numbers make Mississippi fifth in the nation per capita in annual opioid prescriptions at a rate of 1.07 opioid prescriptions per citizen.

In 2015, according to MBN, there were a total of 52,404 reported drug overdose deaths in the United States, with 33,091 of those deaths caused by opioid overdose. That’s more deaths than the 37,757 caused by vehicle accidents and 36,252 caused by firearms.

Cowan said a new tracking system has recently been put in place to obtain a more accurate number of drug-related/heroin overdose calls received by the department in an attempt to gain a better understanding of just how bad the drug problem has become on a local scale.

Southaven Police Department Sgt. Kevin Sanders said the department received a total of 60 overdose calls in 2016 and already, as of June 24 of this year, has received 53 calls.

Those numbers, Sanders added, represent “calls for assistance labeled as ‘overdose.’ It could range from an overdose of over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, or illegal narcotics.”

Lisa King, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Parkwood Behavioral Health System in Olive Branch said the facility has definelty seen a rise in the number of patients struggling with drug addiction, particularly heroin.

“We’ve seen an increase especially just in the last year,” she said. “It’s pretty apparent this is an epidemic.”

Parkwood is a rehabilitation treatment center serving patients in North Mississippi and throughout the Mid-South region.

In 2015, the facility had a total of 63 admissions for opioid dependencies with 14 of those admissions from DeSoto County. In 2016, that number more than tripled at a total of 194 admissions with 67 from within the county. And this year, through June, there have been 73 total admissions with 22 from DeSoto County.

“It’s truly unbelievable,” she said of the drug problem not only in DeSoto County but that’s been sweeping across Mississippi and the United States. “It’s out of control to the point where it’s going to take a lot of people to get a handle on it.”

Parkwood provides an array of programs, both inpatient and outpatient, to help drug addicts and those with other addictions and behavior disorders.

“We are able to individulaize every patients treatment because we really try to work with them around their work schedules and other committments they have in their personal lives to ensure they are getting the proper care and treatment they need,” King said.

“We want to make sure when they are discharged from Parkwood that they are better when they leave than when they came in.”

King added that when patients complete their treatment at Parkwood, the facility also has after-care programs in place for patients who need to continue their treatment at another rehabilitation facility.

King said the facility treats patients of all ages with specialized units for different age groups including children ages 5-12, adolescents ages 13-17, adults ages 18 and up, and older adults ages 65 and up.

As for those patients affected by heroin addiction, King said the facility normally treats patients from 17 to 18 years old and on up to age 65.

“There’s not an age group it doesn’t touch,” she said. “It’s sad.”

King also cited the number of readmissions at the facility is also staggering and involves those patients who are discharged from treatment and then come back through the program multiple times seeking help for the same problem.

“We have a lot of readmissions, not once or twice but maybe three or four times,” she said. “We understand success is very hard the first time. It’s a process.”

Classes for drug addiction and other behavioral issues are available weekly in the outpatient building on the backside of the Parkwood campus located at 8135 Goodman Road in Olive Branch. Narcotics Anonymous is held on Mondays and Emotions Anonymous is held on Thursdays. Both classes start at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. For more information, call Parkwood at 662-895-4900 or (800) 477-3422.

Deanna Shelton, APN, FNP, who provides coverage in the Methodist Olive Branch Hospital Emergency Department said since the hospital opened in 2013, she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of drug overdoses that come through the ER.

“The most astonishing is the increase in the amount of patients who actually admit that they use illegal substances,” she said.

Shelton added that if a drug overdose patient comes into the hospital, crews stabilize the patient and then reach out to Regional IV Mental Health Services – a treatment facility for alcohol and drug abusers that has a location in Hernando – to assess the patient and decide how to continue their treatment outside of the hospital.

Madelyn Cook, Development Executive and Patient Advocate at Methodist Hospital in Olive Branch said the hospital helps patients struggling with drug and substance abuse through its Congregational Health Network (CHN), a partnership between Methodist hospitals, Mid-South congregations and the community to extend personalized care to patients and nonpatients beyond hospital treatment.

The CHN at Methodist Olive Branch is sponsoring a free Mental Health First Aid class starting in August. The 12-hour training course, Cook said, is designed to equip participants with skills to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem.

Cook said the evidence behind the program demonstrates that it helps build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

“You are more likely to encounter someone struggling with a substance abuse issue or mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack,” Cook said.

Methodist Olive Branch’s Living Well Network is also available to those interested in learning about depression, anxiety, risky drinking and suicidal feelings. The program also provides resources to put sufferers on the road to recovery.

The program’s mission, according to Cook, is to give people the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest by creating and supporting a healing network that can assist them in successfully navigating depression, stress and the challenges of life. For more information, visit

On Aug. 24 at 6 p.m., Cowan, who works in the department’s Special Investigations Division, will be one of several keynote speakers talking about the epidemic during a seminar sponsored by the American Addiction Center/Oxford Treatment Center. The event will be held at Longview Baptist Church in Olive Branch, and the public is encouraged to attend.