2018-06-21 / Editorial

Statewide opioid crisis hits home for Jamestown and its police chief

ANOTHER VIEW
BY EDWARD MELLO

A recent article in The Jamestown Press reported on the statewide opioid overdose spike as Rhode Island heath officials issued a public advisory after seeing an increase in overdoses from May 21-27.

In 2017, there were 323 overdose deaths in the state of Rhode Island. This year, we are on track to match that same number of deaths. While none of the overdoses during this period of time originated in Jamestown, I want to be clear that our community is not immune to this epidemic.

The Jamestown Police Department has had the unfortunate task of notifying at least four families that a loved one died as a result of an overdose related to heroin or Fentanyl. Three years ago, all Jamestown officers were issued and trained in the use of naloxone (Narcan). Just this past weekend, two Jamestown police officers administered naloxone to an overdose victim in a vehicle on Route 138. This was not the first time nor will it be the last.

This addiction touches everyone. I, too, have a young family member suffering from addiction to heroin. I suspect she began this path at the age of 15 or 16 when she was introduced to illicit prescription drugs in high school. This path eventually led her to heroin. She went from a bright honor roll student to failing out of college and now finds herself standing in line daily at a methadone clinic or trying to find her next dose of heroin. Our family hopes every day that she survives — we pray she will not be the next victim.

I sympathize with families who have loved ones that suffer from addiction and who refuse to get help. It is important not to rush to judgment about how difficult and straining this can be on a family until you have experienced it firsthand. You quickly realize those who do not want help simply will not accept it. It can be at once angering, frustrating, and frightening for families who only wish for the health and well-being of their loved one.

I suspect most heroin addicts begin their journey in a similar fashion; starting with prescription drugs and eventually moving on to heroin. I ask that you talk with your children at an early age about the dangers of all drugs. I ask that you make sure you do your part to keep all prescription drugs out of their hands.

There certainly is a lot of blame to go around for this current epidemic, including those who have succumbed to addiction. Do your part not to contribute to the problem. You can start at home by clearing out all your old or unused prescriptions. The Jamestown Police Department provides an anonymous drug drop box in our outer lobby available 24 hours a day. We also provide free take-home drug test kits for use by parents.

We still have a long way to go in improving prevention methods and treatment, but these seemingly small efforts can have a significant impact.

Edward Mello is the chief of the Jamestown Police Department.

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