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PTACC Ticker
Wednesday, November 4th

Tucson: In the Local Fight Against Opioid Addiction, U-MATTER
Addressing the local opioid epidemic: fewer arrests & more treatment.
The Tucson, Arizona police department (TPD) has developed a robust and successful deflection program, under the leadership and passion of Assistant Chief Kevin Hall. The Arizona Department of Health Services released a report that found 790 Arizonans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, and opioid deaths in Arizona had spiked by 74% in just four years. Assistant Chief Hall had heard about deflection and to bring it to Tucson, the TPD partnered with a local treatment provider, CODAC Health, Recovery & Wellness, to implement TPD’s first deflection program in July 2018. The Unified Medication Assisted Treatment Targeted Engagement Response (U-Matter) program partnered with researchers from the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women, or SIROW—housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences—to evaluate the program.

Tucson Police Officers in the U-MATTER unit performs outreach to individuals in the community alongside peer-support co-responders from partner agency, CODAC. The outreach team, including officers Erik Morales and Christopher Ciarvella, will offer snacks, naloxone kits, and a quick briefing on how to administer the naloxone. For those interested in treatment, they offer rides to CODAC. Notably, Officer Morales hadn’t made an arrest in over a year. Watch a video on U-MATTER outreach.

“The role of being a cop is evolving. We’re public servants first, and to deal with an issue like a national epidemic, we need to get out in the community, reach out a helping hand and make positive changes...Every human being has a right to live a fruitful life and to be loved, and nobody should have to do it alone.” Officer Erik Morales, U-MATTER, Tucson Police Department

The Tucson Police Department Deflection Program: 6 Month Evaluation Findings May 2019 report analyzed data gathered over the course of six months. SIROW director and U-MATTER’s lead researcher, Josephine Korchmaros, reported that 362 unique individuals were identified through the program as having substance misuse issues and were connected either immediately to services or were given resources and encouraged to do so. Of those 362 people, 71 received full clinical intake assessments (the first and most important step towards getting necessary treatment), 40 committed to long-term treatment at CODAC, and 10 are participating in MAT through CODAC. Read the report and more about U-MATTER.

More from Assistant Chief Hall & Tucson Police Department’s U-MATTER:
National Academy of Medicine: Diversion a “Promising Practice”
The American Opioid Epidemic in Special Populations: Five Examples
The opioid epidemic has affected a lot of the U.S. population, but has impacted certain segments of the population with more intensity, including: justice-involved populations, rural populations, veterans, adolescents and young adults, and persons who inject drugs. Little research has been dedicated toward understanding the specific needs of these special populations (other than for persons who inject drugs), including building the evidence base for targeted approaches and solutions. Research has clearly shown that solutions for the opioid overdose epidemic are not one size fits all, and special attention should be paid to these populations that may be suffering unduly. 

The article notes that some promising approaches “focus on re-directing people with an SUD away from the justice system...reducing the number of people incarcerated for drug-related offenses and connecting them instead to treatment.” Diversion saves lives, and results in significant cost savings. Examples of police-led diversion mentioned in the article include Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). Read more.

Health Equity Research Lab: Police-based Juvenile Diversion
A manual for creating a diversion program based on the Cambridge Safety Net Model
Seen less frequently in deflection is a focus on using police based diversion to divert criminal justice-involved youth from the juvenile justice system to systems of treatment and support. Through “police-based diversion,” a young person can receive services and supports that address the  underlying causes of the risky behavior. A benefit of  juvenile diversion being managed “pre-complaint” by the police, as opposed to during court hearings, is that it circumvents the first point of contact for that young person
with the juvenile court entirely and leaves no record of an arrest. The Cambridge (MA) Safety Net model offers one example of juvenile diversion. Access the report. 


Did you see it?

“MorePowerfulNC” campaign
North Carolina’s Attorney General Stein and Secretary Cohen created the MorePowerfulNC campaign to address the opioid epidemic, outlining steps for the safe storage, use and disposal of pain medications, as well as resources for finding treatment and recovery support. The resources list PTACC as a source of information on pre-arrest diversion programs. Learn about the Initiative.

USICH's Response to Homelessness Toolbox

To promote alternatives to criminalizing people experiencing homelessness, USICH identified several actions stakeholders should take to break the link between homelessness and criminal justice involvement, include cultivating partnerships with system brokers such as homelessness, veterans, drug and mental health courts, the local prosecutor’s office, public defender’s office, problem-solving courts, legal aid and other decision makers to utilize diversion and intervention practices. Read the full report. 

IL Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council
Illinois’ Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council released its 2020 annual recommendations from including addressing “deflection/pre-arrest and diversion program implementation barriers in order to increase capacity of these programs statewide,” by creating “community-level connections to deflection and diversion deflect and divert justice-involved individuals with OUD to treatment. Read more.
Want to get involved in the growing field of deflection and pre-arrest diversion?
Then join a PTACC Strategy Area

Check It Out! The PTACC National Pre-Arrest Diversion Resource Website.

PTACC is the NATIONAL voice of the pre-arrest diversion field and provides vision, leadership, advocacy, and education to facilitate the growth and practice of deflection and pre-arrest diversion across the United States.
© 2020 Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (PTACC)

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The PTACC Ticker is a summary of resources, news stories, opportunities, and updates for deflection related issues, including the topics of police and other first responders, treatment, and community. It is compiled and published by PTACC each Wednesday.

Some headlines and text have been altered by PTACC for clarity or emphasis, or to minimize discriminatory or stigmatizing language. Opinions in the articles and op-eds do not necessarily express the views of PTACC and our partners.