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KBIA’s latest project focuses on reducing opioid overdose deaths in Columbia and its surrounding areas. The project provides information to learn more about substance use disorders, opioid overdose deaths, recovery and tools to reverse opioid overdoses. KBIA’s mission includes communicating information and engaging with all members of our community as a public service.KBIA will continue to cover this ongoing community issue. If you have a story you would like to share, contact news@kbia.org.

Columbia Police Department's Sgt. Dallas Dollens on Narcan and law enforcement

A dose of Narcan is on top of two pamphlets: one entitled "Columbia/Boone County Resource and Referral Guide" and the other "Signs of Opioid Overdose."
Rebecca Smith
The Columbia Police Department trains its officers on how to administer Narcan. Sgt. Dallas Dollens continues to take the training and stay updated on recovery resources. CPD is a partner in the Boone County Overdose Response Coalition. "Through our training unit, we have training at the Columbia Police Department, that kind of has a schedule of the things that we've got to keep up to date on and I know Narcan is one of those things," Dollens said.

For a KBIA special series on substance use and opioid overdose death prevention, Columbia Police Department's Sgt. Dallas Dollens spoke with KBIA’s Kassidy Arena on December 9th about the opioid crisis in our community, and about what our community is doing to address it. Dollens supervises the vice narcotics and organized crime unit.

On opioids and their use within Columbia

Dollens detailed the opioids his department most sees within Columbia: fentanyl, prescription pills (and counterfeit ones) for oxycodone, oxycontin. Prior to that, much of the department dealt with heroine use.

Dollens: This continues to really become a community issue. One of the primary focuses of our unit is we work fatal overdoses. We try to determine the drugs that are killing people, where are they coming from, how are they getting to Columbia, what can we do about it?

Rebecca Smith

On overdose rescues within Columbia

Dollens: Anecdotally I can tell you we’re seeing much more Narcan in the community, which is a great thing. Oftentimes our officers are showing up and they’re going ‘Hey, we’ve already Narcan-ed this person.’

Dollens spoke about the lack of data that exists around the stigmatized topic of overdose - and acknowledged that his numbers of overdoses and overdose deaths in our community are likely an undercount. 

Created by Rebecca Smith

On overdose 911 calls to the police department

Narcan is the tool that can immediately reverse an opioid overdose and help prevent death.Narcan is the tool that can immediately reverse an opioid overdose and help prevent death.

Dollens: Unfortunately, we still do see this…I think it's fear of getting in trouble. Fear of, ‘Hey, this is a bad situation.’

...An overdose call is not uncommon for a patrol officer. I mean, it's just something that they deal with. Every officer in our department working patrol is going to deal with that. They're going to respond to multiple overdose calls a year. And so, the good thing is we kind of come prepared.

Columbia police carry a hard, plastic tool kit that contains one dose of Narcan, gloves, a CPR mask and a list of state-funded and private resources/organizations for substance use recovery.

The Narcan kit is open to reveal a wrapped dose of Narcan, resource guides and gloves.
Rebecca Smith
Columbia police officers act as first responders when called onto a scene with a potential overdose. They are trained to administer Narcan, which can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

On fear of calling 911 and the 'Good Samaritan' law

When someone calls 911 about a potential overdose, the caller and the person overdosing will not be arrested for having possession of drugs or paraphernalia.

Dollens: I think the heart behind the Good Samaritan law was, to try and encourage people to just call 911. Don’t run, call 911. And I can tell you: our officers, I mean, they’re responding to these overdoses as first responders, okay? We’re law enforcement, we understand there’s a lot of things going on in an overdose, but the primary concern of everyone should be saving a life.

Kassidy Arena: The good news here is that you said you’ve seen a lot more Narcan being used within our community. Can people get in trouble for carrying Narcan on their person?

Dollens: No, you're not gonna get in trouble for having Narcan. That's not something you can be arrested for. It's good for us. I mean, that's the scary thing is we're seeing this increase in deaths, but we also are seeing an increase in people using Narcan. So really, it shows that this is really becoming tragic, the levels, because how many people are being saved, you know? What would our numbers be without that? And so, fortunately, we are seeing that in the community.

Kassidy Arena was the Engagement Producer for KBIA from 2022-2023. In her role, she reported and produced stories highlighting underrepresented communities, focused on community outreach and promoting media literacy. She was born in Berkeley, California, raised in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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