Opioid addiction and deaths from opioid overdoses have reached epidemic levels across the nation, and Wayne County is no exception. Over the past two years, there have been 40 overdose deaths in our county.

“If we don’t take decisive action and use every resource at our disposal to fight this deadly epidemic, it will continue to cause misery and death in our community,” said A.G. Howell. “The time for action is now.”

If elected, Howell plans to implement a comprehensive strategy to address the opioid crisis, including the following actions and initiatives:

Institute a pre-arraignment diversionary program that would allow first-time, non-violent, misdemeanor offenders the chance to get into treatment before they are charged with a crime. If they successfully complete rehabilitation and participate in a program of recovery, the DA’s Office would decline prosecution before they ever appear in court, and the recovering addict would avoid the consequences of a criminal record. If they fail to comply with the terms of the program, they will face criminal prosecution. “I don’t believe the solution to the opioid crisis is locking up addicts arrested with small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia for their own use,” Howell said. “Rather than punishing them, we ought to be putting them on a path to recovery, thereby reducing the demand for drugs and restoring the health of our community.”

Aggressively investigate every overdose death and use the new drug delivery resulting in death statute to prosecute those responsible for delivering deadly drugs.

Organize an Opioid Task Force under the command of the DA’s Office composed of county detectives, state police, municipal police, the coroner and others to open lines of communication and coordinate enforcement efforts aimed specifically at stopping the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, and the over-prescription of opioid medications.

Organize a Wayne County Opioid Overdose Prevention Group composed of law enforcement, doctors, pharmacists, parent activists, mental health professionals, recovery community representatives, social service agencies and existing groups like the Heroin Prevention Strike Force to develop a comprehensive plan for preventing and reducing overdose deaths.

Seek out grant money to establish an Opioid Education Program in Wayne County schools in grades K-12 to educate students about the dangers of opioids, especially prescription pills, which are responsible for more than 80 percent of all heroin addiction. The program would use the Operation Prevention curriculum already developed and available free of charge through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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