Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology released the region’s first-ever catalog of responses to the growing opioid epidemic.
Topics covered in the document include techniques for reversing overdoses, systems for prosecuting drug users and sellers, and strategies for addiction prevention.
Irshad Altheimer, director of the Center for Public Safety Initiatives at RIT, said the catalog is a response to the expanding diversity of methods to combat the crisis and its growing death toll.
The focus is local, but the catalog draws on research and news clips from across the country and around the world, Altheimer said. It cites insurance policies in Maryland and law enforcement initiatives in the United Kingdom.
“It’s the first of its kind,” said Altheimer. “Right now, no place has a silver bullet. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s good to look at other places around the country and ask ourselves, to what extent could we apply a program, or certain aspects of that program, here?”
Altheimer said the 53-page document is a work in progress. “We published now so we could start sharing our research, but we’re still collecting more information, and we’ll continue to update the document,” he said.
Kayla Macano contributed to the project as a research associate at RIT. When the epidemic eventually subsides, she said, she hopes the catalog will offer a lesson in the power of creative thinking. “With the variety of different types of interventions that are in the catalog, no matter what problem may arise next, it may encourage thinking outside of the box,” Macano said.
Macano and Altheimer said they collected a diverse array of responses to the crisis that extend far beyond law enforcement and criminal justice. Harm-reduction strategies, like needle exchanges and supervised injection sites, tolerate risky behavior and seek to minimize its harmful consequences. The researchers point to those responses as examples of new methods that acknowledge the futility of merely arresting users of illegal drugs, they said.