Opioid Crisis Management: Cities to Watch
- Anaheim, CA
- Manchester, NH
- Binghamton, NY
- Everett, WA
- Dayton, OH
An opioid crisis has swept the nation from coast to coast, resulting in dramatically increased numbers of arrests, hospitalizations, and deaths. The drug epidemic has hit particularly hard in rural and impoverished areas, though its effects are also strongly felt in American cities.
However, a number of communities across the country are stepping up to fight the rising tide – and setting valuable examples for others along the way. Here are five communities leading the way in battling the opioid crisis.
The mayor of Anaheim, Mayor Tom Tait, has called for "a culture of kindness" when approaching the drug epidemic, citing the importance of treating addicts as not criminals but individuals in need of help and compassion. Drug Free Anaheim, a newly introduced program, allows and encourages those suffering drug addiction to approach any member of the local police force and ask for help in seeking treatment. The program has assisted a great many addiction sufferers in connecting with treatment programs – and subsequently has saved many lives.
Manchester helped to pioneer the program that Anaheim's Drug Free program is modeled after. The drug epidemic affected Manchester significantly – in no small part due to the poverty of many of its citizens. However, Manchester's efforts to connect addicts with treatment programs and counselors – rather than putting them in jail – have achieved a great deal of success in combating the crisis within its bounds. Manchester has approached the epidemic with the concept of addiction as disease firmly in mind – and along with many other communities, this approach has helped to fuel recovery.
Mayor Richard David of Binghamton has gone in record to state that law enforcement efforts alone will not fix the drug epidemic, and that a new approach to addiction is needed to cleanse the streets of the destructive effects of heroin. Binghamton has created the position of Intensive Care Navigator, which assists addicts leaving short-term crisis centers in their transition to longer-term care facilities in order to boost their chances of success at avoiding relapses.
Everett's local government and Mayor Ray Stephanson have sought to battle the drug epidemic by creating teams of police officers partnered with clinical social workers. These teams do street outreach to those suffering addiction and help to connect them with treatment professionals and programs rather than simply arresting them. In addition, police officers in Everett are now equipped with doses of the medication Naloxone, which saves lives in the event of a heroin overdose.
The city of Dayton, OH has taken their battle to the courts. On behalf of a number of addicts, the city has sued drug manufacturers who have done nothing to avoid distribution of excessive amounts of pain medication that then finds its way onto Dayton's streets, contributing to the epidemic. Everett has also taken this approach. Dayton's mayor, Nan Whaley, has called the drug companies' failure to appropriately regulate the amount of medication they distribute – and their failure to attempt to prevent these medications from being sold as street drugs – grossly irresponsible and in no small part a contributor to the number of deaths from the drug epidemic.
Each of these cities is combating the drug epidemic without simply arresting addicts, and their efforts have meant greater success not only in preserving life but in increasing the rate of recovery for drug addicts. The programs and practices they have instituted are setting a new standard for America's approach to addiction – and will shape national approach to the crisis for years to come.