Of­fi­cers be­gin­ning to take opi­oid ad­dicts to re­hab, not jail

The Washington Times Weekly - - Police Protection -

Fen­tanyl-linked deaths jumped more than 400 per­cent from 2014 to 2017 and ac­counted for nearly the en­tire in­crease in over­dose deaths from 2015 to 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

Fen­tanyl has been flow­ing into the United States through two il­licit pipe­lines. Mex­i­can car­tels are bring­ing it into the U.S. through the na­tion’s por­ous bor­der along tra­di­tional drug traf­fick­ing routes. Mean­while, Chi­nese lab­o­ra­to­ries are ship­ping more than 1 mil­lion pack­ages a day to the U.S. through the Postal Ser­vice, which Congress is try­ing to stop with leg­is­la­tion signed by Pres­i­dent Trump. China last month promised to clamp down on cut with fen­tanyl, Mr. Ea­ton said. He es­ti­mates that the num­ber of fen­tanyl seizures over the past year has in­creased five­fold.

“When we ar­rived, we were seiz­ing a lot of heroin mixed with fen­tanyl. Now it’s just fen­tanyl,” said Mark Sk­eff­in­g­ton, as­sis­tant spe­cial agent in charge of the DEA’s New Eng­land field di­vi­sion.

Fen­tanyl is be­com­ing so pop­u­lar that it is in­creas­ingly show­ing up in co­caine and syn­thetic mar­i­juana, or K2. In 2012, 180 co­caine over­dose deaths in­volved fen­tanyl or an­other syn­thetic opi­oid, ac­cord­ing to the CDC. By 2016, that num­ber had risen to nearly 4,200.

“We are not turn­ing the tide in the opi­oid cri­sis be­cause we are now see­ing fen­tanyl cut with mar­i­juana and co­caine,” Chief Walsh said. “We are not shocked any­more be­cause this is the new nor­mal.”

Cops as so­cial work­ers

On an es­pe­cially warm Tues­day af­ter­noon in late May, DEA agents ob­served three peo­ple shoot­ing heroin in a park­ing lot along the old in­dus­trial city’s sur­pris­ingly blue bay. The agents called lo­cal po­lice to pick them up, but of­fi­cers were too busy re­spond­ing to a drug-re­lated shoot­ing across town.

“If we weren’t do­ing the work we are do­ing, imag­ine how bad it would be,” Mr. Sk­eff­in­g­ton said. “If we weren’t tak­ing fen­tanyl off the streets, it would be chaos.”

The surge in drug use has forced law en­force­ment to shift its tac­tics to be­come more proac­tive than re­ac­tive.

“You are see­ing a par­a­digm shift,” said Christo­pher Del­monte, po­lice chief for Bridge­wa­ter, Mas­sachusetts. “This is one of those times where our pro­fes­sion has changed. I’ve been in law en­force­ment for a long time, and I’ve only see two other par­a­digm shifts like this. The first was af­ter the Rod­ney King ri­ots, and the sec­ond was af­ter 9/11.”

The opi­oid cri­sis has forced law en­force­ment to as­sume un­fa­mil­iar roles as drug coun­selors and so­cial work­ers. Across the coun­try, they are ad­min­is­ter­ing nee­dle ex­change pro­grams, hand­ing out nalox­one, and vis­it­ing over­dose sur­vivors and en­cour­ag­ing them to en­ter re­hab.

“I never thought I’d see the day when my of­fi­cers are dis­tribut­ing drugs in a con­trolled way,” Chief Del­monte said.

Chief Walsh said his of­fi­cers made about 1,800 home vis­its to over­dose vic­tims and re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts last year. Some ar­rive in un­marked cars to help ad­dicts avoid the stigma of po­lice vis­its.

The vis­its can be dis­cour­ag­ing be­cause health care pri­vacy laws pre­vent of­fi­cers from en­list­ing fam­ily mem­bers to help ad­dicts seek or main­tain re­cov­ery. None­the­less, they sol­dier on.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.