12 Ways Cities are Stepping Up in the Fight Against Opioids

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President Trump outlined his plan to combat the opioid epidemic at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Monday. In Manchester, overdoses through early March were up 23 percent from this time last year. (Getty Images)

On Monday, President Trump traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire, to unveil a plan to combat the opioid epidemic. The plan, which is based on recommendations from the president’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, includes strategies intended to reduce opioid prescriptions and increase the punishment for drug dealers.

Unfortunately, the plan is light on details for how the federal government will work with local governments dealing with increasing opioid use in their own backyards. Cities have been calling for direct funding for treatment centers and increasing the availability of the lifesaving drug naloxone, which is used to stop opiate overdoses.

With financial and leadership resources from the federal government not anticipated, city officials and partners in the nonprofit and philanthropic space are stepping up in extraordinary ways to serve the needs of individual and families struggling with life-threatening addictions.

Partly to inspire and partly to advance replication, below are 12 ways that community leaders are stepping up to stem the loss of life related to the opioid epidemic.

Quick Response Team (QRT), Huntington, West Virginia

The Quick Response Team (QRT) is a collaborative effort among law enforcement, medical care providers, mental health agencies and university researchers to bring a rapid response to the opioid epidemic. The team provides support to individuals within 72 hours of experiencing a drug overdose by initiating an assessment of an individual’s needs, symptoms and strengths in order to determine an appropriate plan for intervention. This process helps improve access and reduce barriers to recovery and treatment services. The QRT is deployed 40 hours per week and is comprised of a Huntington Police officer, a paramedic with Cabell County Emergency Medical Services and a mental health provider from Recovery Point of Huntington, Prestera Center or the Huntington Comprehensive Treatment Center.

MCAT Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, Indianapolis, Indiana

This pilot program begun in August 2017 is designed to be an on-scene intervention for rapid evaluation of the mental and behavioral health of individuals in crisis. Served by a police officer, paramedic and medical clinician, these specialists will work collaboratively to de-escalate situations where law enforcement has been called. If certain health services are needed, the individual will be taken to a hospital emergency room or to a crisis assessment center. The effort is managed by the Indianapolis Metro Police Department and operates 24 hours each day, seven days a week.

Opioid Data Dashboard, Tempe, Arizona
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As part of a region-wide strategy stretching from Tempe through Chandler and south to Goodyear, Arizona, local leaders came together to plot strategy and action steps directed at opioids education and treatment initiatives. A significant investment was made to strengthen data collection and management, to share available data, and to develop performance measurers. These local efforts helped spur the Arizona state government to adopt an Opioid Epidemic Act which covers pharmacist prescription management, post-overdose treatment referrals, and a Good Samaritan law protecting those seeking medical attention in the event of an overdose.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, Seattle, Washington

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a pre-booking diversion pilot program developed with the community to address low-level drug and prostitution crimes in the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle and the Skyway area of unincorporated King County. The program allows law enforcement officers to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug or prostitution activity to community-based services, instead of jail and prosecution. By diverting eligible individuals to services, LEAD is committed to improving public safety and public order and reducing the criminal behavior of people who participate in the program.

Safe Station, Manchester, New Hampshire
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At any time — day or night — a victim of substance misuse disorder decides or gathers up the courage to ask for help, he or she can go to any MFD Station and speak to the firefighters on duty. The firefighters will arrange for or provide a medical assessment. If there is cause for concern that there is something else medically wrong with the patient, transportation to an appropriate level medical facility will be arranged for and provided by Manchester’s contracted 911 service. Each individual seeking assistance will be required to drop any needles and/or paraphernalia in to a collection bin located at each fire station prior to speaking with coaches or seeking treatment.

The Champion Plan, Brockton, Massachusetts

The Champion Plan is a police assisted recovery program in Brockton that launched on February 29, 2016. The plan is meant to help place individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) who want help into the level of care they want: detoxification, CSS, outpatient, Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), etc. Modeled after a similar program in Gloucester, individuals suffering with a SUD asking for help will receive it. Brockton’s police headquarters will serve as the point of entry.

“Not My Child” Resource Guide, Annapolis, Maryland

Not My Child is focused on providing awareness by providing the facts of abuse of prescription drugs and the escalation of heroin use in our communities. The Not My Child discussion taking place in our communities provides an open, honest conversation regarding the use of drugs by children and adults in every community, the issue does not discriminate. NMC is a collaborative effort supported by multiple county agencies, non-profits and community members working together to educate parents, families and communities on the impact of addiction on the individual, family and community.

Operation Prevention, Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education
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The DEA and Discovery Education have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. Operation Prevention’s mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. With virtual field trips, parent resources, English and Spanish language tools for K-12 and a national peer-to-peer video challenge, look no further to kick-start life-saving actions today.

Partnership for Drug Free Kids, (nonprofit educational effort)

A nonprofit organization committed to helping families whose son or daughter is struggling with substance use. Partnership for Drug Free Kids empowers families with information, support and guidance to get the help their loved one needs and deserves. The organization advocates for greater understanding and more effective programs to treat the disease of addiction.

Kenton County Substance Abuse Program, Kenton County, Kentucky 

It is estimated that roughly 80 percent of those booked into the Kenton County detention center in northern Kentucky are incarcerated for charges that are either directly or indirectly related to substance abuse disorders. In 2015, jail directors dedicated a 70-bed dormitory in their facility to substance abuse treatment, adding to the 30 beds already designated for such treatment. The voluntary, application-based six-month program provides inmates with cognitive-behavioral therapy, intensive counseling individually and in groups, spiritual programming and, prior to their release, a naltrexone injection to block the effects of opioids for 30 days after release. Inmates are also connected to community services before they are released, including organizations that help them attain health insurance.

FEND Movement at the Vans Warped Tour 2018

The Vans Warped Tour is the largest traveling music festival in America. From June through September 2018, the concert series, now in it’s 25th year, will roll through 37 cities and attract between 500,000 and 700,000 young people to the performances. This year concert promoter Kevin Lyman has launched a partnership with the Preventum Initiative to add a youth drug overdose prevention program as a singular message. Mixing music, app-based technology, gamification and a streetwear brand the campaign will focus on opioids use and misuse as well as opioid overdoses.

Drug Market Intervention Strategy, High Point, N.C.

First piloted in 2004 in High Point, N.C., Drug Market Intervention (DMI) is a strategy for shutting down overt drug markets and improving life for residents in the surrounding communities. DMI identifies particular drug markets and street-level dealers, arrests violent offenders, creates “banked” cases – or suspends prosecution – for nonviolent dealers and brings together dealers, their families, law enforcement officials, service providers and community leaders for a call-in meeting that makes clear that selling drugs openly must stop. The strategy also includes a critical process of racial reconciliation to address historical conflict between law enforcement and communities of color.

About the author: Jim Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.