Saving lives and impacting opioid addiction: Tempe Police officers to carry naloxone
$2 million federal grant funds comprehensive response program including treatment
Tempe, AZ – Every Tempe Police officer will soon carry a supply of lifesaving naloxone for people who overdose on opioids as part of a comprehensive federal grant that also will provide treatment services to assist those facing addiction.
Tempe is one of only 12 cities, counties or tribal governments around the country to be awarded the grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Tempe grant is $2 million across four years, with the city getting $500,000 per year for a new program. The City Council voted to formally accept the grant at its Oct. 17 Regular Meeting.
“The Tempe Police Department is consistently exploring ways to reduce harm in Tempe. This grant, along with the addition of naloxone for our officers to carry on a day-to-day basis, provides an all-inclusive approach to save lives,” said Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir. “The collaboration with Arizona State University and La Frontera EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center allows a holistic approach to end the cycle of addiction.”
Tempe Police took the lead on applying for the grant, alongside Arizona State University and La Frontera EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center. The grant will fund a comprehensive program that includes:
- A full-time Tempe police officer devoted to the project
- Naloxone for 250 Tempe police officers in relevant assignments, include bike and motor officers, patrol officers, parks officers, school resource officers and drug enforcement officers
- Case management services for up to 60 days for each individual encountered through the program. This includes support services like transportation, referrals and connections to treatment and recovery services.
Tempe officers will be trained and equipped with naloxone within the next several months; a precise time frame has not yet been determined.
It is estimated that Tempe Police could administer naloxone to about 155 overdose victims over the course of the four years of the grant. Each case will be reported via a 24-7 phone or online system and a certified specialist will be dispatched to meet the victim, most often while they are still at the hospital. They will be offered information about treatment services and, if they accept, will get up to 60 days of help from an EMPACT “navigator” who can help them access support. It is estimated that many will accept some level of ongoing services to try to end their addiction.
In addition, overdose victims who receive naloxone from Tempe Fire Medical Rescue – more than 200 people a year – also will be able to receive “navigation” services as part of this program.
EMPACT is able to provide a one-dose naloxone kit and training to each overdose victim and a friend or family member, in case overdose occurs during or after treatment.
Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Chief Greg Ruiz said the grant and the resulting new program with Tempe Police is another example of public safety agencies collaborating to save lives.
“We are in the middle of a national epidemic of opioid addiction and every new idea is a chance to impact that reality for the better,” Ruiz said. “We look forward to being part of this innovative approach to help community members in crisis.”
During the four-year course of the grant, researchers at the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice will track data to help determine the effectiveness of training and the reach and impact of the program in the community.
Tempe Fire Medical Rescue crews have long carried naloxone. In recent years, police departments have begun stocking naloxone for officers’ use in assisting overdose victims before emergency medical help arrives. Tempe wanted to approach the issue with a more robust, comprehensive program that attempts to reduce the number of people addicted to opioids.
In 2019, through approximately mid-August, Tempe Fire Medical Rescue administered naloxone to 194 people; the total for all of 2018 was 272 people. The number of doses used each time appears to be increasing as well, believed to be because of increased opioid potency or not knowing how much was taken by the individual. Tempe does not track the number of fatal opioid overdoses each year because only the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner determines cause of death, taking into account underlying or other causes in any instances.
The City of Tempe, as part of its data and transparency initiative, maintains a dashboard of opioid overdose response statistics. It is available at tempe.gov/opioids.
According to 2015 statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services and others, an estimated 46,000 people in the state have a diagnosed Opioid Use Disorder (OUD); and the age group with the highest number of affected individuals (37 percent of OUD cases) is people age 25 to 34. In June 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency related to opioid use and overdoses in the state.
Media contact: Nikki Ripley, 480-313-8850