Eight Iowa-based programs that are making a difference in addressing the drug addiction and overdose crisis in the state will be recognized during a ceremony in Des Moines on Aug. 6. 

The Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy has partnered with the Addiction Policy Forum, a national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating addiction as a major health problem, to highlight the eight Iowa programs as part of the forum’s Innovation Now initiative. The programs’ successes are detailed in a new report: “Iowa Innovations to Address Addiction.”

The recognized programs are: Alliance of Coalitions for Change, Bridges of Iowa, Community Resources United to Stop Heroin (CRUSH) of Iowa, Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, Employee and Family Resources, Heart of Iowa, Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, and Primary Health Care MAT Program.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 341 Iowa residents died in 2017 due to drug overdoses. However, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported a 33% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths from 2017 to 2019. 

“Addiction and overdose devastate far too many Iowa families, but there is also progress to report, as illustrated by the recent drop in drug overdose deaths in Iowa,” Dale Woolery, director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said in a statement. “While much work remains, Iowans are responding to address addiction through numerous proven and promising initiatives, including eight programs highlighted in Addiction Policy Forum’s report.”

Des Moines-based Bridges of Iowa is among the organizations recognized. The nonprofit was founded 20 years ago by Don Lamberti, the founder and former chairman of Casey’s General Stores. Lamberti and his wife, Charlene, started Bridges after their son, Anthony, received a prison sentence for drug offenses. 

A privately run program, Bridges of Iowa is located and operates in the west wing of the Polk County Jail, but clients are not incarcerated and are free to come and go within the guidelines of the program. The community-based approach works by partnering with other organizations such as St. Vincent DePaul, Food Bank of Iowa, the Polk County Board of Supervisors, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Prairie Meadows and a host of private employers who help clients return to the workforce.

The nonprofit takes a long-term approach to addiction treatment, with most clients spending a year in the program, which includes high-intensity residential therapy, continuing care and a path to long-term employment and self-sufficiency.

“We don’t just treat addiction; we provide people with a pathway to a new life,” Lamberti said. “We know Bridges works and we continually strive to make the program better.”

The invitation-only ceremony begins at noon on Aug. 6 and can be seen on Facebook Live

To read a Business Record Insider article about Bridges of Iowa and its CEO, Patrick Coughlin, click here.