Duluth Police Department Introduces New Position to Fight Opioid Crisis

Brandon Weathers
Updated: December 13, 2018 10:29 PM

The Duluth Police Department has introduced a new position that will aid in the fight against the opioid crisis. Jessica McCarthy began as the department's first opioid technician Tuesday. The position was made possible with a grant.

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"What brought them to apply for this grant is that they're seeing the same people overdosing over and over and over again," McCarthy said. She hopes to be a resource to overdose victims that will help them refrain from relapsing, "in working one-on-one case management, in helping people physically bringing them to appointments, and showing them, 'this is the service that you can access, in this system that's overwhelming."'

The grant also funds a wider availability of naloxone, or Narcan. "When someone overdoses on opioids, Narcan is a nasal spray, similar to an allergy spray, that will stop that overdose. So it kind of blocks all of those receptors, and it will give you time to bring them to the hospital," McCarthy explained.

This life saving drug has proven to be very effective in Duluth. McCarthy said, "just last year, I believe the number is 72, so the Duluth Police Department saved 72 lives using Narcan. So, it's a pretty incredible innovation."

McCarthy will now oversee Narcan training with officers throughout the task force area, including St. Louis County, as well as parts of Douglas, Lake, and Carlton counties.

McCarthy says the opioid epidemic cannot be addressed without changing the social stigma around it. In her position, she will head community outreach to encourage discussing the matter openly.

"When we don't talk about it, it means that people suffer and people think that they're alone." McCarthy wants to remind people struggling with addiction that they aren't alone by sharing her own experiences, being 8 years sober herself. "There's a lot of beauty in someone having a similar shared human experience, which is why a lot of people get to recovery, is they have somebody share their own story."

McCarthy said they're also diving into research with a full data compilation which also receives funding from the grant. She says the research will allow them to isolate the problems contributing to the overall crisis, and fit the solutions.


Brandon Weathers

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