DPS: A Leader in the Fight to Address the Opioid Crisis

Police officer holding package of Narcan Nasal Spray
Friday, June 14, 2019 - 3:54pm

The DPS team has seen real results across the state as it works to put Governor Cooper’s Opioid Action Plan into action. Below, we outline where we are now and our future initiatives in this realm, as we work to meet our goal of helping the North Carolinians struggling with opioid use disorder to lead healthier, more productive lives through prevention, harm reduction and access to care. 

In conjunction with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), DPS Community Corrections is addressing the issue of opioid misuse by administering a Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) pilot program in Iredell and Wilkes counties.
In the two years the program has been operating, 266 individuals have received treatment and recovery support services. The majority of the 181 participants interviewed after six months all had increased housing and employment stability, greater monthly incomes, less involvement with the justice system and a decrease in substance use. Additionally, all probation and parole officers carry Narcan (naloxone) kits provided by NC DHHS. Narcan kits have been administered to both individuals under supervision and community members in need. 

State Highway Patrol members have received opioid misuse and awareness training, and have trained specifically on using naloxone and the processing of opioids they encounter. Members of the Patrol’s Criminal Interdiction Unit (CIU) carry Narcan kits, and are now issued Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to protect them from fentanyl exposure. 

Patrol leadership knows that combating opioid misuse in our state cannot be addressed by any one agency, but only through participating in partnerships such as Operation Medicine Drop program with the Safe Kids North Carolina organization. Through this partnership, the State Highway Patrol is working to safely remove unused prescriptions from homes. CIU members also now participate in monthly DHE (Domestic Highway Enforcement) nationwide conference calls regarding opioid trends throughout the United States and Canada to better expand their knowledge. 

The State Capitol Police is actively engaged in efforts to assist persons with opioid addictions through Crisis Intervention Team training, specialized first responder skills, and assisting in removing expired and unwanted medications with medicine drop partnerships. Recently, SCP partnered with the N.C. Department of Insurance in hosting a "Medicine Drop" event, where more than 35 pounds of medications were received and destroyed. All State Capitol Police officers have received opioid awareness training including how to administer Narcan nasal spray. Supervisors are currently carrying Narcan cartridges and all other officers will be issued the cartridges by fall 2019.

From July 1-31 the Governor’s Crime Commission (GCC) will accept Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) applications (federal grants).  One of the grant priorities will be to work on the opioid abuse and addiction problem in North Carolina. The GCC is also in the process of opening a grant in Buncombe County that provides wrap-around services to the children of those with substance use disorders. GCC is also collaborating with the NC DHHS to support three sites across North Carolina where women who have been victimized and have a substance use disorder can access transitional housing, counseling and other services.

Human Services at NC Emergency Management worked with NC DHHS to make Narcan available to nurses working in all shelters during Hurricane Florence. To ensure that their law enforcement and public safety partners have the resources they need, NCEM assists in the procurement of Narcan supplies from federal resources and NC DHHS.

The Juvenile Justice section continues to partner with mental health and substance abuse professionals to address the causal factors and issues faced by young people that lead them to drug use. Juvenile Justice assessment centers develop an individualized plan for each youth. A proposed policy for the use of Narcan has been developed and is under review.

Adult Correction has partnered with NC DHHS to pilot a program to reduce opioid-related fatalities among offenders being released. The pilot program will be initiated at the NC Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh, Wake Correctional Center in Raleigh and Orange Correctional Center in Hillsborough. DPS Secretary Erik A. Hooks recognized opioid-related addictions as one of the challenges that must be faced by government leaders who are working to help remove the barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated people from pursuing healthy and productive lives when they return to their communities after serving time.

DPS Communications Team