New pilot program in Mohave County credited with saving drug users’ lives

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 3:29 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:50 PM MST
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MOHAVE COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A new pilot program is saving lives in Mohave County, an area once gripped by drug addiction. It used to be the deadliest county in the state for overdoses, but now they’re bringing people back to life.

Drug overdoses are a call law enforcement responds to all too often, and luckily an officer uses Narcan to save a life. Now, men and women behind the badge in Mohave County are leaving behind Narcan, along with a brochure on how to use it in a community gripped with opioids. Anytime someone is in crisis or an officer carries out a search warrant, they’ll leave a box and a pamphlet.

“Most of our search warrants are meth and fentanyl now, which is sprinkled into everything,” said Kingman Police Chief Rusty Cooper. “So as we clear a house for a search warrant, it’s a high-risk location; it gives them an opportunity in the future.”

A pilot program developed by HIDTA, or High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, is working in the county. Four years ago, it ranked first in the state for overdose deaths. “Unfortunately, we were at the epicenter of the overprescribing of pills,” said Robert Devries, Director of Mohave Substance Treatment Education & Prevention Partnership (MSTEPP). “We began to see the effects of people turning to heroin and then with the introduction of fentanyl.”

But this new program slashed overdoses by 49% last year compared to the previous year. Just last month, none were recorded. “Nobody wants someone to die of a drug overdose. Anytime we can help someone not die of a drug overdose, I think we’re doing a good thing,” said HIDTA Director Dawn Mertz. It’s a program HIDTA wants to implement across the state in hopes of saving more lives.