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Town hall on the Opioid Epidemic: Leading in a Crisis

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The impact that opioid addiction has had across the country was apparent in the attendance at a standing-room only discussion Sunday afternoon.

Panel member Richard Jorgensen, coroner in DuPage County, Ill., identified why.

“Every aspect of addiction is paid for by the county,” he said. “You pay for the sheriffs, you pay for the police officers, the jail the public defender, court system.”

Russ Hammel, Montgomery County assistant chief of police, said the county’s homicide and narcotics units now work fatal overdose cases together, treating them as homicides.

The panel included a variety of public officials whose work intersects with the epidemic, sometimes in multiple ways.

Phyllis Randall serves as the Board chair for Loudoun County, Va., but she works as a mental health counselor in local jails, and she has seen the problem change firsthand in recent years.

“With any other addictive substances, if they get a garbage batch of PCP, nobody goes back to that dealer,” she said. “With heroin, they want to get the dope that gets you closest to death as possible.”

Gary Moore, judge executive in Boone County, Ky. has served as a co-chair of the NACo-NLC Opioid Task Force, and his advice for counties dealing with the epidemic reflected that cooperation.

“We didn’t talk about cities or counties, we talked about communities,” he said. “Don’t try to do this alone, work collaboratively as a region.”

Huntington, W.Va. Mayor Steve Williams, another task force member, seconded that.

“It doesn’t know geographic boundaries, it doesn’t know political boundaries,” he said.

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  • The Stepping Up Initiative

    In May 2015, NACo and partners at the CSG Justice Center and APA Foundation launched Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails.

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