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Idaho public health officials emphasize drug recovery in September

Idaho Panhandle Health District documentary screenshot
Brandi Irons is one of those featured in the new film.

The Panhandle Health District tells the stories of five people in recovery in a new documentary.

Public health officials in Idaho say the number of people overdosing on fentanyl is increasing.

The problem has the attention of Governor Brad Little, who, earlier this year, announced a statewide campaign aimed at combatting illegal drug trafficking in the Gem State.

In terms of education, the Panhandle Health District is devoting the month of September to promoting recovery from substance abuse. It has produced a video that highlights five local people telling their addiction stories, including Brandi Irons.

“I continued to go to school and kept my drug use hidden from my parents. Then I broke my pinky playing a softball game at school," she said.

She was prescribed opioids for the pain.

“I loved it. I loved hydrocodone. I loved everything that it made me feel and everything it didn’t make me feel and I kept getting it. After the prescription was gone, I got it anywhere I could, whether that was a friend’s parents’ medicine cabinet or I had to buy it off the streets. I didn’t care where I got it. I just knew that I wanted it and I needed it," she said.

You can see Irons in the health district’s documentary here.

“We really hope people watch it and share it and there are resources such as a screening guide to suggest ways to watch the film and added resources," said Kelsey Orlando, who manages the Panhandle Health District’s substance use disorder program.

“We’re responding in all the ways we know how to. We always look at collaborating with comparable communities and seeing what they’ve done that’s been successful. We hope that that makes an impact in our community," she said.

The health district’s Recovery Month strategy targets women with addictions who are pregnant or who have just given birth.

“Once they enroll in the program and they meet a certain amount of meeting requirements, they are eligible to receive diapers and wipes for their kiddos, so we think that that’s going to be really good incentive and will get more moms and pregnant moms into recovery," said Megan Lowery, who manage's the health district's new Project Butterfly.

The health district reports 353 Idahoans died of drug overdoses in 2021, up from about 260 the year before. Kelsey Orlando says that trend is consistent with the federal overdose statistics.

“Our focus right now is on fentanyl, but starting next month it could be something completely different," she said.

In Coeur d’Alene, Orlando says the health district is working with the Kootenai Recovery Community Center to try to remove the stigma associated with drug overdoses and to provide support to people who battle addictions in the Panhandle.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.