Problematic Behavior or Activity
Prescribed and illicit use of opiates is on the rise across the United States and in most communities in Oregon. With this increased use comes an increase in deaths from intentional and accidental overdose. The spread of synthetic opioids like fentanyl—which is both cheaper and far more potent than traditional heroin—has resulted in a 5-fold increase in overdoses from synthetic opioids from 2013 to 2018 across the U.S.
Agencies in Oregon and throughout the country are having success in mitigating overdose death and injuries through rapid deployment of naloxone—which can reverse the effects of opiates—by police officers. Police officers are often able to arrive and administer the drug before medics can.
Opiate overdose deaths take an individual and collective psychological toll on members of the community. Drug overdose deaths also represent a budgetary impact that is most significant in small agencies, especially when those deaths result in criminal investigation of the drug supply chain.
The Dallas Police Department has partnered with Polk County Behavioral Health to train every sworn officer on the use of naloxone. A naloxone kit will be deployed with each officer. This is a low-cost program with potential high yield in terms of preventing loss of life and mitigating investigative expenses. The program will cost between $25 and $50 per officer per year.
Based On Research
Concepts for constructing this program included National Search and Rescue Association practices and Problem-Oriented Policing models of community problem solving.
This program will cost between $25 and $50 per year per officer. This cost includes all materials and training. There is now a 4 mg naloxone generic that is delivered via nasal spray, which both reduces costs and simplifies the delivery of naloxone.
On February 1, 2017, the program went live. According to Dallas PD, the program has been used with success on many occasions, saving countless lives.
Critical Success Factors
The requirements to equip officers with naloxone in Oregon are minimal. Typically, the main hurdle is finding a medical professional to assume the oversight and authorization to obtain the drug. Partnering with public health entities is a good way to mitigate associated costs. Health providers may also be able to access funding sources based on their involvement in the program.
Medical professionals, working with Dallas PD, requested that officers deploy naloxone when the officers first arrive on scene, as opposed to waiting for the medics to arrive and start administering an IV.
Dallas PD also found that they were using more naloxone after the passage of Measure 110. Measure 110 decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all kinds of drugs—including heroin and methamphetamine. Dallas PD found that they were using more naloxone both in terms of amount per event and in terms of total events requiring naloxone application.