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Jefferson City Taking a Stand against Heroin

Batul Hassan

Drug overdose rates have been on the rise in Missouri.

So much so that in 2010, deaths attributed to drug overdoses were higher than deaths due to traffic crashes, according to the July 2013 Behavioral Health Epidemiology Workgroup (BHEW) Bulletin. According to that same BHEW bulletin, heroin was the second leading cause of overdoses behind opioid pain relievers.

This past weekend, there were two deaths in Jefferson City, with heroin overdose being the suspected cause.

The Jefferson City Police Department is attacking this issue head-on with the Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education (H.O.P.E.) Campaign. The H.O.P.E. Campaign started in 2011-2012 and is a multi-faceted approach that focuses on educating Jefferson City residents about heroin before it becomes a problem. Budget cuts and a decrease in staffing have hurt the Jefferson City Police Department’s efforts in recent months, but the city plans to re-invest in its efforts.

Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker said H.O.P.E. town hall forums have been extremely successful and are very well attended. “As one of the byproducts, area service providers that deal with substance abuse have seen a massive increase in intake of people seeking help,” Capt. Shoemaker said.

There were 25 heroin overdoses between August 2012 and December 2013, according to Capt. Shoemaker. Capt. Shoemaker noted that this is a “huge decrease” from the number of overdoses in previous years, due in large part to the H.O.P.E. Campaign.

One member of the H.O.P.E. Campaign is Jefferson City resident, Jim Marshall. Marshall lost his son to an overdose on September 25, 2011. He joined the H.O.P.E. Campaign in order to spread his message.

“I’m spreading my testimony to as many people as will possible in order to tell his story. It has evolved as my coping mechanism. This is how I’m coping with my loss,” Marshall said.

Marshall’s story and those like it are a major reason why the Jefferson City Police Department is taking the issue of drug abuse so seriously.

“When you have that many people that were affected by it and you get the word out and you have community support like we did, I think that’s a huge victory for us in terms of at least taking the extra step of not just reacting to it, but trying to be proactive in dealing with it,” Capt. Shoemaker said.

The Jefferson City Police Department is short 10 or 11 officers due to budget cuts, light duty issues, extended leave for medical reasons and military vacancies, according to Capt. Shoemaker. This has had an impact on the efforts of the H.O.P.E. Campaign, but Shoemaker notes that the Jefferson City City Council and Mayor Eric Struemph have authorized the Jefferson City Police Department to fill their vacancies.

“Nobody’s lost sight of the H.O.P.E. Campaign. Hopefully we’ll get back to where we need to be before too long,” Capt. Shoemaker said.

More information on the H.O.P.E. Campaign can be found at www.jeffcityhope.com.

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