Reno Agencies Meet to Fight Pill Abuse
The recent alleged drug ring bust was addressed Thursday by a group that’s trying to find what avenues to take to fight prescription medication abuse in northern Nevada.
The recent alleged drug bust was addressed Thursday by a group that’s trying to find what avenues to take to fight prescription medication abuse in northern Nevada. Washoe County’s Regional Emergency Operations Center was standing room only…turnout for this meeting no doubt boosted by the shocking bust 2 weeks ago. As one speaker told the crowd, “We have an issue with prescription drugs, let's talk about it like that. We're not calling anybody out, let's just have a community conversation."
It was one of the several views heard at this “Community Opioid Response Group.” About 100 attended, from police to first responders…to government and medical professionals. Reno Police Officer Tim Broadway told us, “They all took time out of their day to come and address this issue so we can keep our community healthy and safe." How was this meeting more than just talking about it? He said, “It's bringing up issues that people and organizations have dealt with."
The Community Opioid Response Group was formed earlier this year before the recent bust. Why? Because as the people there told us, that is the problem the community is now facing. It’s a rising problem, and one they say will be tough to beat. Pills are more accessible, have less regulations than illegal drugs…and they're harder to control. As Broadway put it, "It is absolutely difficult for us for legal prosecution on that. And there are so many of these pills out there."
On the counseling side of the issue is Rachelle Pellissier, the executive director of Crisis Call Center. The help lines there have been ringing frequently, with a common theme. As she told us, "Dr. Rand was their primary physician and they have ongoing important prescriptions, whether for pain meds or for any other vital medication. We've gotten about a hundred calls like that." She says all those calls are desperate calls. A recent caller's plight was typical: "His prescriptions are all coming up, they need to be renewed, and now he doesn't have the doctor he goes to."
Some progress was made at this meeting…Join Together Northern Nevada introduced a powerful public service announcement that focuses on opioid overdose, and what to do. As a victim lies on the floor, someone rushes to help. The narration: "If you have a loved one addicted to prescription drugs or heroin, a Naloxone injection can save a life..."
While all this is going on, there's a growing movement to make drug abuse more of a public health issue, versus a police and criminal justice matter. As one person yelled from the crowd, "It's about saving lives. It’s not about, 'we need to figure out who is guilty!'" And even though they’re on the side of the law, officers we spoke to see a positive in a greater public health approach to drug policy.
Whatever solutions are offered and even acted on after today, agencies are coming together. And even though the problem looming over Reno seems large and getting larger, there was much optimism there today. Any problem gets smaller…when more are fighting to eliminate it. As Washoe County Sheriff Deputy Jeff McCaskill told us, "As a community, we need to look at this problem, and address it as a community."