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Willcox acknowledges the opioid crisis: Now what?

WILLCOX — Opioids have seeped into the lives of Willcox residents, leaving the question: Where to go from here?

In mid-July, Willcox Against Substance Abuse (WASA) held its first-ever Naloxone administration instruction class, a free class instructed by Laura Morehouse with the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. Individuals from multiple agencies attended the class, including members of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department as well as Emergency Response Team members and officers with the Willcox Police Department.

According to Sally White, WASA director, the class was the first of its kind for the Willcox-area general public.

Prior to the class, the Arizona Range News requested emergency room visit information on drug overdose victims from Northern Cochise Community Hospital. According to the hospital’s records, there have been three confirmed overdose cases in the hospital since April 15, 2019.

Where are Cochise County citizens buying their opioids?

The Washington Post recently released opioid distribution information obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The nationwide information details transactions between opioid manufacturers and pharmacies between 2006 and 2012.

According to this database, during that six-year period, 37.7 million opioid pills were distributed to Cochise County residents. That’s equal to every man, woman and child in the county receiving 41 pills per person per year.

A Walgreens pharmacy in Sierra Vista came in first in the category of top five sellers in the county, selling 4.2 million pills during those six years. The Safeway in Willcox came in fourth in sales for the county, with 2.8 million pills sold.

Have the sales of opioids gone down?

The Range News sought comments of multiple pharmacists in the Willcox area. One individual agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

When asked if the sales of opioids had gone down over the course of a year, the Willcox pharmacist said that to the best of the pharmacist’s knowledge, sales had not declined.

“There’s still lots of it (opioids) being dispensed in the past two or three years. I would say it’s very similar in volume,” the pharmacist said. “As far as the tapering off of use of opioids over time, I haven’t seen a huge drop in it, honestly. There’s been stronger rules regarding how we dispense them, whereas before we might have been a little more lenient on how a person can get their opioids and now we’re a lot more strict because people just push it.”

The pharmacist did say that it has been noticed that several doctors in the area who previously prescribed a higher amount have decreased the number of prescriptions for pain medication. Also, the pharmacist later noted that several doctors have been referring chronic pain patients to pain management facilities, though the pharmacist said that might also be an effort to shift liability.

The one major change the pharmacist described for pharmacists when it comes to filling prescriptions for opioids is government restrictions in refills. Individuals who are on opioid regimens are not given refills before the allotted day of the prescription refill except in extreme circumstances.

“Some of these folks, I don’t think they want to get off of them. There’s a few that get high doses over a period of time. It’s going to catch up to them sooner or later. We’re kind of in between a rock and a hard place,” the pharmacist said. “I do see some people who have actually totally gotten off the opioids, but they’re in the minority. There’s some folks and there’s something that clicked, and they see that it’s not really giving them a whole lot of pain relief for the trouble they go through. And some people say that the level of pain isn’t any different being off of the medications. They still might be in chronic pain, but having gotten off the opioids, they’re not any worse off. They’re better off for not having to take the medication, but painwise, their pain isn’t worse than it was.”

According to the article “Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use” published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 80 percent of heroin users reported that they used prescription opioids before switching to heroin.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports increases in nationwide seizures of two drug categories — cocaine and fentanyl. Cocaine seizures have climbed from 51,713 incidents in fiscal year 2018 to 81,889 in FY19, while fentanyl has climbed from 1,785 incidents to 2,096 in the same time frame.

Willcox man stabs woman in neck

WILLCOX — Things turned violent last Wednesday when a man stabbed a female victim in the neck, claiming afterward he had been hypnotized into doing it.

Willcox Police responded to the area of West Lewis Street at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. The victim, a woman who lived in the area, was allegedly stabbed by Ian Carl Jensen, 34, of Willcox.

According to the police report, the victim’s grandson had brought his motorcycle to the victim’s house to show the victim and the victim’s husband. In the grandson’s statement, the grandson was showing the victim’s husband the motorcycle when he looked over and saw Jensen pacing back and forth behind the victim. The victim had been leaning up against the house, and that was when, according to the eyewitness statement, Jensen began punching the victim on the right side of her face. That was when the grandson noticed the knife in Jensen’s hand, and Jensen had apparently stabbed the victim. The weapon was a silver kitchen knife with a 3-inch blade.

After walking away, Jensen came back with the knife toward the victim but then dropped the knife on the ground. That was when the victim’s husband, who carried a cane that turns into a Taser, held up his cane toward Jensen. Jensen left the knife near a rose bush and waited for the police to arrive.

In the grandson’s statement, he said Jensen began yelling at the victim’s husband and grandson, saying they had made him stab the victim and that they hypnotized him.

The victim was later transported to Northern Cochise Community Hospital and then flown to Banner University Hospital. The victim was later interviewed by Willcox Police and said Jensen was her relative and had mental issues.

In the victim’s statement, she said Jensen had recently been released from prison and told the police that Jensen would either have to be placed in a shelter in Tucson or go back to live with the victim. According to the victim, Jensen had arrived that morning and began talking to himself and said the voices in his head were talking back.

Later, the police were given video of Jensen saying he was going to chop off the victim’s head. Willcox Police were also notified of the possibility that drugs could be found in Jensen’s belongings.

Jensen was taken into custody and charged with domestic violence and attempted homicide.

It was not Jensen’s first brush with the law — he had been arrested multiple times over the past 20 years with charges ranging from shoplifting and burglary to weapons misconduct and fighting.