Many communities across the country have come together to develop strategic plans to address opioid abuse, including the City of Baltimore, the State of New Jersey, the State of Pennsylvania, and the State of Wisconsin. Samples of these plans can be found on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Training and Technical Assistance Center website.
In many communities, law enforcement overdose response programs helped create a united front in the fight against overdose and other drug-related issues. Law enforcement officers already play a leadership role in cross-agency collaboration and information-sharing in the domain of drug abuse. Law enforcement officers also frequently come into contact with hard-to-reach populations most at risk of opioid overdose. Multi-agency public education campaigns often receive heightened media coverage and result in improved awareness about opioid overdose and its prevention. Local and regional opioid overdose taskforces can collaborate with criminal justice, public health, judicial, and other resources in creating a comprehensive response to this ongoing crisis.
See the Community Outreach Letter below for one example of you can highlight partnerships in your community.
Yes, in January 2017, BJA released two funding opportunities as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which is the first major federal substance abuse disorder treatment and recovery legislation in 40 years. The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Program and the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-Based Program support CARA’s goals to address the opioid epidemic by encouraging comprehensive, cross-system, data-driven, and evidence-based planning and collaboration among stakeholders from the criminal justice field and substance abuse treatment and recovery system. Under the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-Based Program there is support for overdose outreach projects, which can connect overdose survivors with treatment and recovery services, including naloxone, and educate communities on overdose prevention. The deadline for both of these solicitations is April 25, 2017.
Additional funding is available through the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).
Each state and territory offers information and support regarding substance use disorders through a state substance abuse agency. The role of a state substance abuse agency is to plan, carry out, and evaluate substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services provided to individuals and families. Specifically, they oversee treatment centers and counselors in their respective states and, in many cases, supply funding to providers, track state trends, and ensure residents receive the services to which they are entitled.
Examples of promising programs include:
Programs to encourage opioid overdose witnesses to seek help:
Many opioid overdoses are witnessed, but bystanders do not call 9-1-1 because they do not recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose, or because they are concerned about legal repercussions.
To remove barriers for witnesses of opioid overdoses to call 9-1-1, a growing number of states have passed overdose Good Samaritan laws. These laws shield those who seek help and witnesses from certain criminal charges for drug or alcohol possession. Even in the absence of Good Samaritan laws, arrests at the scene of an overdose are rare in most jurisdictions. Law enforcement agencies are in a unique position to make the public aware of these life-saving policies. However, failure to follow stated policies about arrest or prosecution can detrimentally impact the willingness of drug users, their families, and others to seek help in an emergency.
Example: In Washington State, research suggested that the vast majority of drug users were not aware of the new Good Samaritan law a year after its passage. The State Attorney General was featured in a press conference when the law took effect and he and the medical director of the Poison Control Center appeared in a radio public service announcement to share information about the law. The launch of the video was accompanied by a wide-ranging media campaign to educate the public about the provisions and benefits of the Good Samaritan law. The Seattle Police Department also created a video to be shown at roll call to all patrol officers that featured the narcotics captain, a county prosecutor and the medical director of public health. The video addressed what the law does and does not cover, the basics of what naloxone is, and the fact that public health programs would be distributing naloxone. To address their concerns, community members receiving naloxone were informed that police have received education about the Good Samaritan law and naloxone distribution efforts.
Veterans, residents of rural and tribal areas, recently-released inmates, people completing drug treatment/detox programs, and some young adults are at an especially high risk of opioid overdose. Law enforcement and correctional officers are uniquely positioned to engage in initiatives targeting these high-risk groups, thereby helping prevent fatalities by engaging in outreach initiatives. Individuals re-entering society after a period of incarceration are especially vulnerable. In the first two weeks, formerly incarcerated individuals are approximately 30 times more likely to die of a drug overdose than members of the general public. A number of programs engage law enforcement and correctional staff in educating this population about overdose risk, how to avoid and respond to overdose, and any provisions covering criminal liability of those who seek help.
Example: In Rhode Island’s “Staying Alive on the Outside” program, state prisoners are shown a video about overdose risks as part of the pre-release process. Another example is a program at the Allegheny County, PA, jail, where public health and corrections officials present overdose prevention trainings to inmates prior to discharge. At the jail in Kent, Washington pharmacists train inmates and naloxone is placed in their possession for pick up upon release.
Example: In Indiana, local law enforcement worked in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration to revise the drug education curriculum delivered in schools to include key information about overdoses. This includes content covering signs and symptoms of overdose, the substances that are likely to cause overdose, and the considerations involved in calling 9-1-1.
Some law enforcement agencies found it helpful to develop pocket cards or brochures that can be easily distributed. Sample pocket cards and brochures are included in the resources below.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit (2016) provides communities and local governments with material to develop practices and policies to help prevent opioid-related overdoses and deaths.