Law Enforcement Gather to Receive an Update On Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA—A year ago federal, state and local law enforcement met at the Cedar Rapids Police Department to discuss the opioid and heroin epidemic crossing the country, which was making its way into Eastern Iowa. Yesterday, the group reassembled to receive updates and to discuss the way ahead, including enforcement actions, prevention, and treatment. It is estimated that there are over 100 overdoses deaths each day in the United States, with more than three out of five overdose deaths involving opioids.
Also yesterday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli, joined parents who lost children to overdose to discuss Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. Parents from across the country met at the White House with Secretary Vilsack and Director Botticelli to share their experiences and efforts to address the opioid epidemic.
President Obama proclaimed September 18-24, 2016, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. During this week, Attorney General Lynch and other Justice Department officials—as well as U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Bureau of Prison facilities across the country—will participate in over 250 different events highlighting the importance of prevention, enforcement, and treatment. The Department of Agriculture will host state forums on the epidemic in Connecticut and Colorado. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald will lead a forum in Washington, DC, on treatment and support for veterans with opioid use disorder. (The Proclamation is attached.)
During yesterday’s gathering of law enforcement at CRPD, United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau provided a summary of the key points discussed at the National Heroin Conference, which was held in Minneapolis, MN earlier in the month. At that conference, the emerging problem of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is blamed for a surge of deaths in some parts of the country—including the recent overdose death of Prince—was highlighted at the conference. Speakers at the conference indicated that a multipronged approach was necessary to keep more people from becoming addicted. Techau noted, “We are in the midst of an opioid crisis in our country. Iowa is not immune from problems created by heroin and opioid abuse. A multidisciplinary approach that includes federal, state, and local community agencies is needed to maximize the prevention, law enforcement, and treatment dimensions to meet this challenge.”
CRPD Officer and Coordinator of the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, Al Fear, discussed his efforts to engage and encourage communities to become active partners in fighting back this threat. Citizen involvement at Town Halls held across Eastern Iowa have heard from medical and social service professionals, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors. The FBI and DEA documentary, Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict, has been shown. A “Call to Action” has been introduced during each community meeting. The pill take back initiative was also updated, which offers Iowans year around opportunities to discard unused, expired and unwanted medications at locations around the state. To find those locations, access the website above and select the same link. Other program initiatives and law changes were discussed. To learn more about these initiatives, visit: www.facebook.com/EasternIowaHeroinInitiative.
Director Dale Woolery with the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy also provided updates on the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy’s initiatives and programs.
The meeting closed with a discussion of the way ahead. Training initiatives with local law enforcement to better understand the administration of Narcan were highlighted. Future town halls and public gatherings will continue to be used to engage and encourage area communities to join the fight against this threat.
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