From police to lawmakers, agencies across the state making changes to address opioid crisis

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 17:47:12-05

TULSA, Okla. -- Oklahoma lawmakers introduced a bill this week to tax opioid distributors for substance abuse funding.

Meanwhile, Tulsa Police is working to curb the problem locally. For many officers, the opioid crisis hits close to home.

"Class I taught last week, two of the officers have lost relatives in the past year. One sheriff I taught has lost both brothers in a year. It makes it very personal. It's not us and them. It's a disease," Officer Anthony First said.

Over the last month, TPD started a program to carry more Narcan and go beyond on-scene treatment. Now they're passing the overdose spray to family and friends to help save lives immediately. Tulsa officers are also training across the state, now that opioid fatalities are up 22 percent.

"We lose more people every year to opiate overdose deaths than we did in all of Vietnam. We lose more people to overdoses in Oklahoma each day than we do to car crashes. And the numbers just keep getting worse and worse," First said.

Homeless shelters like John 3:16 said their numbers are up. In the past year, about 80 percent of those who walked through the door were addicted to opiates.

"We've just got a lot of people that are on the streets and hurting right now. Many, many with that opiate addiction that are going without treatment right now. We need to find some way to do something about that," CEO Reverand Steve Whitaker said.

Tulsa's homeless numbers are up two percent, but for women and children that spike is closer to 24 percent. Whitaker said addiction is largely to blame.

"I can take you to bridge, after bridge, after bridge that has a woman living underneath it. Right now, in brutally cold weather. That's an issue for us," he said.

To meet these challenges, John 3:16 is about to open an emergency shelter for women, giving those in need housing for up to a year.

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