COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A community conversation about substance abuse in Bisbee has evolved into a proactive collaboration to tackle the issue across Cochise County.
The Cochise Addiction and Recovery Partnership (CARP) was formed to take a more comprehensive approach to what has become a nationally recognized problem – opioid addiction.
Area agencies have come together with the goal of identifying and improving local services, and to better understand the recovery journey. A major focus of the group is to actively engage law enforcement officers and first responders, to shift the perception of opioid addiction from a criminal issue to a health concern.
The initiative started following a community meeting convened by Bisbee Mayor David Smith in 2017 in response to concerns raised about opioid use in the historic mining town.
"That meeting was attended by both health care providers and addicts, who spoke about their needs and how difficult it was for them to get clean," said Smith. "We now have a group of agencies who have come together to do something about it. Opioid addiction is something that needs to be recognized and resolved, rather than just sweeping it under the rug."
After forming last summer, CARP reached out to the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a national effort to destigmatize substance abuse, for help with a program to be piloted by police and fire departments in Bisbee and Douglas.
The availability of naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose, will be expanded within those agencies to help save lives.
This program will also provide street outreach in high drug distribution areas to expedite connection to treatment and the reduction of criminal activities. Additionally, local citizens are being encouraged to turn in drugs at their police precincts, and to request treatment without fear of arrest.
Training and medication for the program is being provided by Sonoran Prevention Works, a statewide initiative which provides community workshops, consultation, and risk reduction materials to individuals, families and organizations. If successful, there are plans to expand the pilot county-wide.
CARP has also aligned its strategies with the recommendations released by the Arizona Substance Abuse Task Force to communities wanting to address the national opioid health crisis. The initiative is also in line with the Cochise County Community Health Improvement Plan, which identified mental health and substance abuse as its top public health priority.
Subsequently, CARP has worked in key areas to improve the health and safety of local communities, to include:
- Increasing training for police on substance abuse disorders and treatment options
- Clarified the collective understanding of the current barriers to treatment access
- Helped expedite connections to treatment in collaboration with first responders
- Increased community access to resources and treatment services
- Identified sustainable solutions for the opioid epidemic
Moving forward, the CARP partners plan to implement various strategies and programs to enhance access to treatment and services.
Bisbee & Douglas Police & Fire Departments – Will expand prevention and educational efforts, as well as increase availability of naloxone to law enforcement and other first responders. Will provide community outreach and encourage citizens to turn in drugs at police precincts.
Cochise County Attorney - Will offer mandatory treatment programs in lieu of incarceration for qualifying individuals, and will expand its pre-trial diversion initiative to provide treatment alternatives and early intervention in addiction. Will expand prevention education programs and work with partners to remove barriers to treatment.
Cochise County Sheriff's Office - Will expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders, with the help of criminal justice stakeholders.
Cochise County Health and Social Services - Will increase disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications and needles and provide continuing education on pain management for prescribers of controlled substances.
Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc – Will work to remove barriers limiting access to treatment by bringing mobile clinics to targeted communities. A licensed clinical social worker will work closely with staff to ensure those barriers are addressed. A CCHCI physician will receive training to provide opioid dependence treatment.
Cenpatico Integrated Care – Will provide funds to treatment and peer support providers through Substance Abuse Block Grant and State Targeted Response Grant. Will provide funding to expand collaboration with hospital and jail diversion programs. Will provide Governor's Office funding to increase availability of medication assisted treatment.
Community Bridges – Will increase access to available treatment beds, ensure timely appointments, and address treatment services gaps.
Hoops House – Will continue to offer sober living homes, case management, and support services to individuals in the recovery process.
Wellness Connections – Will expand efforts to connect individuals in recovery to comprehensive treatment, counseling and peer support. Will provide supported housing to eligible individuals.
Cochise Re-Entry Coalition – Will serve as an advocate, navigator, partner and resource for CARP in addressing the opioid epidemic as it impacts the men and women returning to the community from incarceration.