DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Governor Reynolds was in Dubuque to tour Mercy Medical Center's Turning Point Treatment Center on October 25.
During the visit Gov. Reynolds was in "fact-finding mode" to learn more about the opioid crisis in the country and state.
This week marks National Red Ribbon Week for Drug Prevention Awareness and Gov. Reynolds drew her attention to Turning Point to gain information on the best way to halt the epidemic.
Researchers are predicting the opioid epidemic could hit Iowa in four to five years, and Mercy is hoping to stop the problem locally before it reaches high levels.
Out of the 11 major cities in Iowa, officials say Dubuque is the only major city that doesn't have residential treatment for rehabilitation. That considered, the governor was extremely impressed with the outpatient facility constructed at Mercy Medical Center.
She applauded efforts at the Turning Point Treatment Center, saying the outpatient facility provides a structure to make a difference for those who need help.
Gov. Reynolds explained during her visit that through the use of lifesaving medications and the treatment they receive at Mercy, it sets a bar for the rest of the state.
"We started [the tour] with Mercy Turning Point because of the great work that you've done and to really understand what you're doing and how we can highlight the work that you've done and look for opportunities to scale that and bring that awareness to other communities across the state of Iowa," Gov. Reynolds said.
The governor is planning to introduce an action plan for the state to combat the growing opioid epidemic.
"We're trying to get in front of it," Gov. Reynolds said. "I think the more that we can get in front of it the better we'll be and to really continue to empower those that are doing great things. Where do we fit into the equation? We don't want to be a barrier, we want to be helpful and be part of the solution."
The panel, including state senators and officials at Mercy, agreed preparedness will help Iowa be part of the solution.
"We need to get ahead of it now in our own state because other states have had an absolute epidemic," Sen. Pam Jochum said. "It has impacted the workforce, has impacted the finances across every level of government and of course the private sector as well."
One person chose to speak at the discussion on their personal experiences. Their words personified the epidemic.
For about ten minutes, the room full of public officials stopped to listen.
They explained using opioids could so quickly turn from a once in a while thing to becoming a weekly or daily habit.
With a room full of important figures and decision makers, their words allowed the governor and senators to understand the importance of programs like the one at Mercy's Turning Point Treatment Center.
"We can learn from [their] experiences, what works, what doesn't work, and then hopefully develop a system that is far more compassionate and successful than what we've seen in the past," Sen. Jochum said.
The speaker was living proof that the program is effective in recovery, allowing them to rebuild their lives while in the program.
I asked them what their message would be to those who are suffering today.
They smiled and said, "If you're not happy, you need to do whatever you can to turn it around."
And they were allowed to do exactly that in Mercy's program.
Gov. Reynolds will be touring other facilities later this week across the state.
She will also be hosting a forum on October 26 at Drake University.
President Trump is prepared to speak today to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.