COMMUNITY’S RESPONSE TO OPIOID ADDICTION Oswego, New York is like many communities across the nation that struggle to find a solution to our ever-increasing opioid epidemic. The reality is that opiate addiction strikes across age, ethnic and economic groups (Adams, 2018) and the community looks to the police for help in combating this issue even when the solution is not en- forcement related. Education, treatment, and intervention are roles that our police officers have had to take-on. Working together with our community partners, the Oswego City Police Department has been intricately involved in providing a variety of tools to help us in our fight.
TORY L. DECAIRE
A s an active participant in the Oswego County Drug Task Force the Oswego Police Department, in its more tradi- tional law enforcement role, has teamed-up with other members of area law enforcement agencies as well as State and Federal entities to help identify drug dealers, investigate their activities, and take effective and efficient enforcement action as needed. This is the type of involvement that has long since been our de- partment’s response to illegal drug activity, but the community needs and deserves more. The CDC recently reported that opiate addiction in now America’s fastest-growing drug problem with the total number of painkillers prescribed in a single year enough to medicate every adult living in the U.S. around the clock. While true that heroin is the most widely used illegal opiate, it’s a fact that prescrip- tion opiate painkillers are equally dangerous and an insidious problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately two million people in the United States alone are addicted to prescription opiates (Adams, 2018). In response, in 2012, the Oswego City Police Department installed drop boxes in the department’s lobby to accept unused or unwanted prescrip- tion medication and a separate receptacle to accept needles and other sharps. These drop boxes are available to the public on a 24/7/365 basis with no questions asked with the goal of getting the unused or unwanted medication out of homes where it may end up being abused. The most recent data shows that opiate addiction and painkiller addiction has resulted in over 53,000 overdose deaths annually (Adams, 2018). The issue of equipping police with the naloxone is debatable among law enforcement leaders across the nation, however these are members of our community that are dying and we are frequently in a position where we can do something about it. In 2012, members of the Oswego City Police Department were trained in the use of, and were issued, nalox-
one, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017). There have been sev- eral cases since the medication has been issued, in which it was administered by Oswego Police Officers in successful life-saving efforts. Unfortunately, the opioid addiction problem does not just adversely impact adults, as the first use of opiates is starting at an earlier age. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that an estimated 52 million people, 20% of those aged 12 and older, have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once. One in twelve high school seniors reported nonmedical use of the prescription drug Vicodin during the past year and about one in twenty high school seniors reported abusing OxyContin (Adams, 2018). With this in mind, the Oswego Police Department has resurrected the DARE program in our area schools. DARE had been pushed to the side over the years as budgets and time constrains made it more difficult to continue the program, however with the increasing issues related to opioid and other illegal drug use coupled with a new and im- proved curriculum, the DARE program is once again, beginning in September of 2017, made available through our local schools. DARE’s new curriculum, “Keeping it Real” has been updated to teach students decision making for safe and healthy living (DARE America, 2017). The most recent addition to our community’s arsenal is the creation of the City of Oswego’s REAP Program. REAP stands for Rapid Evaluation for Appropriate Placement and consists of several key components. First, the REAP program offers a way for people to get help. Traditional methods of treatment usually meant waiting for an opening, finding the appropriate program and more waiting. The REAP program teamed-up Oswego Police with Farnham Family Services which is a New York State licensed, continued on page 34
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