On this day, August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day, the Idaho Falls Police Department and Idaho Falls Fire Department are pleased to announce the launch of a new response plan that focuses on the opioid epidemic and building a non-arrest pathway to treatment and recovery for individuals with substance use disorders.
According to the CDC, over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid. While drug use includes an element of personal choice, there are also external elements outside of an individual’s direct control that contribute to substance use. In many cases, the opioids were prescribed following a medical procedure that progressed into an opioid addiction.
“We are seeing far too many fentanyl overdose deaths as the opioid epidemic has touched every part of our community, state, and nation,” states Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “There is hardly a household where someone hasn’t been affected by the senseless loss of a loved one, friend, or co-worker. This is why this new response plan is a game changer,” adds Casper.
In 2021, a nationwide settlement between states and the opioid manufacturer and its distributors resulted in a $26 billion settlement. Participating states were entitled to receive about half of that payout. In 2022, Idaho received more than $26 million in National Opioid Settlement funds. To date, the City of Idaho Falls has received about $247,000 of those funds. Additional money will funnel into Idaho over the next 17 years.
A team of five employees from the Idaho Falls Fire Department and Idaho Falls Police Department were sent to the PAARI (The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative) conference to learn about effective customized community-based addiction and recovery programs. The programs focus on reaching people before they enter the criminal justice system. Attendees also learned about the guidelines associated with the use and documentation of the settlement funds.
“The team not only returned with training, guidance, and resources, they also returned with a renewed sense of hope to help people in our community who are fighting battles with substance use disorders,” states Chief Bryce Johnson, Idaho Falls Police Department.
Over the past several years, the Idaho Falls Police Department has been developing the COPE program, which stands for Community Outreach Partnership and Education. The newly developed opioid response plan falls under the umbrella of COPE. Using settlement funding, the City hired a part-time social worker whose primary responsibility is outreach.
Two to three days following an overdose call, the social worker and the Idaho Falls COPE detective will follow up with the individual to check on them and provide them and their families with resources. While the response plan is in its infancy, the team will track outcomes, make adjustments, and expand the program to meet the needs and demands as more funding becomes available.
“Regardless of the circumstances or the individual, we are committed to educating our community about the dangers of opioids while breaking down stigmas that hinder recovery. When you’re ready to take the next step, we will connect you and your family with trained professionals who can help with treatment and recovery,” explains Johnson.
Cross-sector collaboration and partnerships are essential components of the new response plan. Over the past several months, IFPD has been meeting with individuals from various local treatment and assistance programs to identify processes, opportunities, and challenges. The Greater Idaho Falls Police Organization allocated $7,000 in scholarships to help bridge the gap in funds for treatment while a case worker is being assigned and more funding becomes available.
Casper states, “I’m beyond grateful for our many partners who are assisting with the ongoing efforts to increase fentanyl and opioid abuse awareness and treatment.”
If you are a local provider with experience in treating substance use disorders and recovery and would like to be a resource for the opioid response plan, don't hesitate to get in touch with the Idaho Falls Police Department at (208) 612-8616.
Media Contact: Public Information Officer, Kerry Hammon, (208) 612-8122 or [email protected].