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OPIOIDS: Police chief among 3 authors of U.S. standards for care

fryan 90Chief Ryan: 'The opioid epidemic ... cannot be solved by arresting and incarcerating more people.'

Arlington effort shapes model

Police Chief Frederick Ryan has announced the release of a document aimed at guiding the actions and policies of police departments nationwide that are scrambling to respond to the opioid crisis. The work comes after a gathering of municipal police chiefs, policymakers and academic leaders from Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Now, the proven strategies employed by the nationally modeled Arlington Outreach Initiative are being melded with efforts in Vermont and West Virginia in a Johns Hopkins publication titled "Ten Standards of Care: Policing and The Opioid Crisis."

In the publication, Ryan, along with Burlington, Vt., Chief Brandon Del Pozo, Morgantown, W.Va., Chief Edward Preston argue for a significant shift in the approach taken by municipal police departments.

"Law enforcement officers are on the front lines of addressing this nationwide crisis. They are often the first to arrive on the scene of an overdose. They encounter and respond to the consequences of addiction every day. They see the toll the crisis is taking on communities, and they have a critical role to play in influencing how communities address it," said the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg American Health Initiative in a statement accompanying the document's May 31 news release.

For Ryan, who has testified before Congress and has sat around the table with the past two presidential administrations and the U.S. Surgeon General, the "Ten Standards of Care" lends national academic credence to an evolving set of policies that police departments have rapidly begun to employ. These procedures have become all the more important in recent years, as overdoses now exceed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

'We must open our minds'

"The opioid epidemic, especially with the dramatic and unprecedented rise in synthetic drugs like fentanyl, represents one of the most significant public health emergencies in a generation. This cannot be solved by arresting and incarcerating more people. As police officers, we are often the first on scene and are being called upon to do something as more and more Americans die every day," Ryan said in the release.

"We did not ask for this responsibility, and we must open our minds to new, research-backed methods. The opioid crisis is, itself, the evolution of a longstanding drug addiction and mental health problem in our society, and those of us in the law enforcement community must evolve our methods to tackle it."

In addition to the Arlington Opiate Outreach Initiative and other municipal programs, the document recognizes the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) as a promising approach that has been adapted by hundreds of police departments across the country. Ryan is a founding member and cochairman of PAARI; he chairs its police council. 

The "Ten Standards of Care" was co-written by the chiefs and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, former Office of National Drug Control Policy directors Gil Kerlikowske and Michael Botticelli as well as six members of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is the product of a meeting of chiefs, veteran policymakers and academic leaders May 3-4 at the Police Executive Research Forum headquarters in Washington, D.C. The document contains consensus best practices for police departments responding to the opioid crisis.

10 standards

Working together, the group developed these 10 standards of care to serve as a guide for police departments and other law enforcement agencies trying to grapple with this crisis. They are:

1. Focus on overdose deaths. Just as homicide is the leading indicator for violence, the standard of care for police departments should be to work with public health agencies toward the goal of reducing overdose deaths. This can be done by using data-driven approaches and rigorous research to drive strategies and measure effectiveness.

2. Use naloxone. Nasal Narcan saves thousands of lives each year. To reverse otherwise fatal overdoses, the standard of care for departments should be to equip and train officers in the use of naloxone.

3. Educate on addiction and stigma. As respected and influential voices in their communities, police and health departments should work together to support training and public education on addiction to dispel the stigma on people with substance use disorders. Within police departments, the standard of care should be for this training to be part of the naloxone program.

4. Refer to treatment. To save lives from overdose, address opioid addiction and reduce recidivism, the standard of care should be for departments to equip, train and recognize officers for helping people in need access effective treatment that offers all three FDA-approved medications.

5. Advocate for “on demand” treatment access. To save lives from overdose, address opioid addiction and reduce recidivism, the standard of care should be for departments to advocate for “on-demand” access to addiction treatment that offers all three FDA-approved medications.

6. Advocate for treatment for those who are incarcerated or under community supervision. To save lives from overdose, address opioid addiction and reduce recidivism, the standard of care should be for departments to advocate for access to effective treatment that offers all three FDA-approved medications for individuals in jail, in prison and under community supervision with the appropriate transition to continuing care. 

7. Prevent outbreaks. To reduce HIV and hepatitis outbreaks, protect officer health and help individuals reach treatment, the standard of care should be for departments to collaborate with public health and community-based agencies to support well-managed syringe service programs.

8. Consider fentanyl detection. To prevent death due to fentanyl and its analogues, the standard of care should be for departments to explore efforts with public health and community partners to help individuals detect the presence of fentanyl in their drugs.

9. Explore innovation. The standard of care should be for departments to explore, with their public health, law enforcement and community partners, the evidence on the efficacy of supervised consumption spaces to connect people to treatment and reduce overdoses.

10. Support Good Samaritan laws. To facilitate an effective and broad response to the opioid epidemic, the standard of care should be for departments to work to make sure that Good Samaritan laws are understood and implemented consistent with the spirit and intent of the legislation.

Click here to download the document in LONG or SHORT form.

About the Arlington Opiate Outreach Initiative: In July 2015, Chief Frederick Ryan and the Arlington Police Department outlined a new strategy for police officers to get directly involved in the demand side of the heroin and opiate crisis by working with a public health clinician to conduct direct outreach to the known substance user community and their families, friends and caregivers. This program is called the Arlington Opiate Outreach Initiative.

Read more here and here.


 This extended news announcement was published Monday, June 4, 2018.

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