Guest Commentary

What Sedgwick County is doing to tackle substance abuse

Understanding and sharing the concern that individuals and our community are experiencing with substance use disorder and untreated mental illness, in late 2018 Sedgwick County funded two positions to address this issue. One position is a substance abuse coordinator working out of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the other is a behavioral health community collaborator working for Comcare of Sedgwick County.

Both positions are charged with working on strategies and engaging stakeholders, including the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition. The coalition is working to mobilize the community, medical experts and other partners around the growing substance abuse issue. Coalition partners include Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, Sedgwick District Attorney Marc Bennett, Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, Comcare, Via Christi Ascension, the Wichita Crime Commission, the Wichita City Council, the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners and the business and nonprofit community.

The coalition is taking an informed, collaborative and strategic approach to this issue, while moving with a necessary urgency. It is planning two upcoming opportunities to find solutions and raise community awareness.

  • A stakeholder summit conducted by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition will be June 20 at Wichita State University. The summit is designed to share information and define a preferred future for mental health, substance abuse and homelessness in our community.
  • The Wichita Crime Commission is planning a Teen Drug Summit later this year. The Crime Commission and the substance abuse coordinator are collaborating with other partners to focus on prevention, education and awareness efforts geared towards our youth population.

The coalition has been discussing, planning and working. The upcoming meetings stem from recommendations collected on Oct. 25, when the Wichita Crime Commission hosted the Sedgwick County Drug Summit at the WSU Metroplex. Approximately 200 community members were in attendance, representing the medical field, drug treatment, law enforcement, education and primary prevention. Passionate and committed attendees discussed methamphetamine and opioid use in our community, participating in breakout sessions to seek input on next steps.

In addition to the upcoming summit, there are daily programs and services addressing substance abuse, provided by numerous local providers, including Comcare, the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, Ascension Via Christi and others. Law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system strive each day to address criminal behavior driven by drug-related activity.

We thank the current coalition members and stakeholders for their work and for their interest and commitment to make Sedgwick County a safe community to raise families and work collaboratively on this endeavor.

David T. Dennis is chairman of the Sedgwick County Commission, Marc Bennett is the Sedgwick County district attorney, and Jeff Easter is the Sedgwick County sheriff