The local effects of President Donald Trump declaring the opioid epidemic “a national emergency” are unknown, but officials from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office think it’s a step in the right direction.
On Aug. 10, President Trump declared the ongoing opioid crisis an emergency and said, “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”
Kassandra Neff, program coordinator for Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, and Julie Krupp, drug liaison for the sheriff’s office, said Wednesday that the announcement was a good thing and hope it will result in more funding.
“We don’t really know what it means yet, but hopefully that will mean more funding and grants,” Krupp said. “Maybe it will enable states to get programs going more easily but it’s just really early to know exactly how it will end up working to our advantage. I think it will (work to our advantage), it’s just a matter of time.”
Neff said the declaration is a win in and of itself and hoped the announcement would mobilize a response nationwide.
“It’s a good thing,” Neff said. “We are losing a generation. We have support from the President, but now what? Let’s finally get ahead of this thing. It’s uplifting to hear public officials coming together with law enforcement officials and not pointing fingers, but instead saying it is a disease. We have to come at this as a community, cross-system solution. It’s not one person or entity’s responsibility.”
Neff and Krupp said Delaware County is very fortunate to have the support of the community. Neff said Delaware County is “resource rich” and that the court system does a good job working to get addicts into treatment.
“Our faith-based community is awesome,” Neff said. “Our 12-Step Community, our [Alcoholics Anonymous] and [Narcotics Anonymous] are so strong. We work really closely with them to get people into treatment and they stay with them. The whole community has really stepped up and wrapped around us.”
Neff added that the sheriff’s office and Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board recently received a grant to fund more peer groups at the jail.
“What we’ve found is the movement of peers working in recovery is effective and is working,” Neff said. “Peers are people who have been through recovery and have recovered themselves. They’ve been in those situations and they’ve overcome those challenges and now they are giving back by reaching out to help others. We are expanding those services.”
Neff said the grant will fund a designated peer that will work with inmates at the jail and assist them when they are released by helping them find help outside the jail.
Neff and Krupp added that deputies will soon carry naloxone, a drug that can be used to revive narcotic overdose victims in emergencies, and said the sheriff’s office will take steps to assist people who suffer overdoses.
“We are in the process of issuing Narcan (naloxone) to all of our deputies,” Krupp said. “We are in the early stages of working on visiting people who have overdosed to offer support and referrals to treatment. That’s all civilian based, it’s not law enforcement or punitive.
Since President Trump’s statement on Aug. 10 there have been no more announcements on the subject, but Krupp said the sheriff’s office will continue to do its best to provide treatment for addicts in Delaware County.
“The sheriff often says ‘we are in the business of saving lives,’ so we are going to have that Narcan available,” Krupp said. “The sheriff often states ‘we know we can’t arrest our way out of this problem’ which is why [Neff] and I are both here and why we have all these programs we are trying to put in place. Because we know that arresting doesn’t solve the problem. Which is why we have prevention programs we are trying to start in schools.”
Krupp said the sheriff’s office has focused on leadership programs for younger students.
“The data shows the younger you start the prevention programming in the schools, the better chance you have of them not starting drugs and alcohol in the first place,” Krupp said.