For Dr. Angela Gatzke-Plamann, it took a Friday afternoon call from a patient to help her grasp the extent of her community’s opioid crisis, reports the MinnPost.
“He was in complete crisis because he was admitting to me that he had lost control of his use of opioids,” recalls Gatzke-Plamann, 40, the only full-time family physician in the central Wisconsin village of Necedah, population 916.
The patient had used opioids for several years. When a urine screening one week earlier had revealed heroin and morphine in his system as well, he denied any misuse, but now, he was admitting it and asking for help. However, both the patient and Gatzke-Plamann could find no local resources to help.
“That weekend I went home and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something different,’ ” Gatzke-Plamann told MinnPost.
In many ways, rural communities like Necedah have become the face of the nation’s opioid epidemic. In rural areas, drug overdose deaths are more common, doctors prescribe more opioids, people have fewer alternatives to treat their pain, and lack access to effective addiction treatment.
For rural physicians like Gatzke-Plamann, the burden of responding to the opioid epidemic falls on their already-loaded shoulders.
Read more about the impact of opioid use in Wisconsin here.