SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department (SPD) was recently awarded a $50,000 grant by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to combat the opioid epidemic and drug abuse.
Police Chief Will Balling said the grant will be dispersed in two, $25,000 denominations over two years.
According to a press release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, 40 law enforcement departments will receive $3 million in grant money to be used to “help replicate or expand drug abuse teams (DARTs) and quick response teams (QRTs) to address the opioid epidemic in Ohio.”
“There is so much good work going on to fight this opioid epidemic and with this new grant money, we can make even more of a difference, as we all work together to save more Ohioans,” DeWine said in the release. “This opioid fight is challenging, but we can continue to make progress.”
“These DART and QRT teams generally are made up of law enforcement officers partnering with drug treatment-providers and others who assist overdose survivors in the recovery process,” the release said. “Team members visit survivors after an overdose and offer counseling and referrals to drug rehabilitation facilities for assessment, detoxification, on-going drug treatment and aftercare. These teams work to reduce overdose-related deaths, reduce repeated overdoses per victim and increase the support network for survivors and their families.”
The SPD’s version of these programs is called SAAT (Sidney Addict Assistance Team) and is run by Community Resource Officer Mike McRill. The program, which was modeled after the Colerain Township Police Department’s program, was instituted a year and a half ago within the SDP, Balling said. SAAT’s purpose is to reach out to those who have overdosed from opioids to help them get treatment.
“A lot of credit goes to Officer Mike McRill (for starting SAAT). A lot of his own time has gone into this. He is the type of individual who cares about everyone, no matter who they are,” Balling said. “He came to me and said, ‘We need to start a program like this.’ He really took the lead on developing it and working with other agencies to getting a clear understanding of how it makes a difference in everybody’s lives.”
Balling said 2017 started off with a very high number of overdoses in Sidney, but its trajectory has gone up and down over the course of the year. In the first five months of this year, Sidney’s first responders administered 178 doses of Naloxone compared to a total of 171 doses administered in all of 2016 in Sidney. Through the beginning of last week, there have been 12 drug-related deaths in Shelby County in 2017, Balling said, and 257 doses of Naloxone have been given during 117 incidents within Sidney.
The grant money, Balling said, will be used to better track who is overdosing, possibly by a part-time coordinator’s looking at data, setting up visits with those who have overdosed and setting up drug presentations. Some of the rest of the money may be used to partner with the Shelby County Counseling Center to give an assessment to overdosed individuals of how to begin recovery.
“We are hoping to get more people off of the opioids.A lot of people say, ‘Well, why are you spending all this time and effort?’ You have to remember, this is always someone’s relative. This is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son,” Balling said. “But you also have to realize that somebody who is addicted to opioids is not going to be a good employee for any of the employers in town. You also have to look at the cost if I have someone on opioids and they are supporting their habit by committing criminal acts. If I can get them off of that drug, now not only do I reduce the amount of crime incidents in Sidney but also the burden on the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and jail. Most of the people they have incarcerated are due to some kind of drug-related offence.”
The SPD has not received the grant money yet, but DeWine’s office expects grant recipients to start using the money before the end of the year.
“Law enforcement in general is to serve and protect. This is part of our process. With serving and protecting, if I can (help end the opioid epidemic), we can actually make a better community, and that is what we are all after,” Balling said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.