New efforts are underway in the Treasure Valley to combat the opioid epidemic. On Monday, elected leaders unveiled their new Opioid Crisis Response Strategic Plan.
"I think all of us, unfortunately, myself included, we know a friend, a family member, a work acquaintance, somebody that's deeply affected by this crisis," Boise City Mayor Dave Bieter said. "These are preventable deaths."
In recent years,opiate-related deaths have jumped significantly across the nation and in the Treasure Valley, with 2018 on pace to set new records, according to a press release from the City of Boise.
From improving prevention education to increasing available treatment options, local leaders are outlining six specific goals - implemented over the next three years - to help lower the number of deadly overdoses in the Treasure Valley.
The six deadline-oriented goals include:
- Ensuring adequate resources exist for prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and data collection
- Establish a coalition to optimize collaboration, communication, and coordination among Treasure Valley opioid-related stakeholders and the public
- Utilize law enforcement assisted diversion to identify individuals at risk who may be amenable to treatment
- Expose healthcare professionals and the public to information that will prevent opioid misuse
- Reduce social barriers for people with substance use disorder (SUD) by de-stigmatizing the disease of addiction and treatment
- Identify, optimize, and implement evidence-based, patient/family-centered, comprehensive SUD treatment options to reduce opioid overdoses by 50%
The planning effort is sponsored by the Treasure Valley Partnership, a coalition of mayors and commissioners from Ada, Canyon, and Owyhee counties, including 14 cities in southwest Idaho, that work to collaborate on wide-ranging issues that impact the entire region.
"We know the impacts that it has in each of our communities, and it's only by working together that we can find a resolution," Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd said.
The plan outlines a new pilot program with the Boise Police Department that, by July 2019, could offer low-risk, non-violent drug offenders a chance to turn their lives around.
"Somebody that's got an opportunity for them to take and put on a different pathway, to get out of the loop of repeated arrests; the loop of a minor offense turning into something that's going to be a lifelong sentence to the criminal justice system," Boise Police Chief Bill Bones explained.
By 2021, the agencies hope to increase the number of medication disposal sites in the valley, along with increasing public access to Naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.
"If we can put Naloxone boxes in communities that are available to anyone with instructions, we can save more lives and prevent accidental overdoses," Janice Fulkerson with NorthPoint Recovery said.
A driving force behind the mission is to stop the epidemic in its tracks before Idaho sees overdose deaths skyrocket even further.
"Compared to some of the areas in the Midwest and the East, we have an opportunity to affect this crisis before it reaches the kind of proportions and the kinds of numbers that they've seen," Mayor Bieter said.
The strategic plan also outlines efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the Treasure Valley and plans to increase education on opioid misuse.
The agencies hope to eventually help implement these changes in other communities across the state.
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