Grant to help local police combat ongoing drug crisis

Original article published in the McGehee-Dermott Times-News | August 9, 2023 | By Rachel Denton Freeze

McGehee Police Department accepts check

The McGehee Police Department will soon have new tools to help in the fight against drugs and overdoses. On Monday, the department became the first agency in the Tenth Judicial District to receive funding for an Overdose Response Team. The $311,042 grant comes to the department through a partnership with the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership, the Arkansas Municipal League, and the Association of Arkansas Counties.

McGehee Police Chief Scott Williams said the grant will be used to fund two new positions within the department that will focus specifically on fighting the drug crisis. “The new Narcotics Investigator position will work to investigate and disrupt the flow of illegal substances, especially opioids like Fentanyl,” said Williams. “This investigator will be trained to detect and deter drug crimes as well as provide education within schools, clubs, and government agencies on the dangers of Fentanyl and other drugs.” Williams said the second position will be a Peer Support Specialist. “The Peer Support Specialist will work alongside investigators, the court system, and rehab facilities to help individuals who suffer from addiction receive the help they so desperately need,” said Williams.

Williams said both positions will be part of the Overdose Response Team. The team will be trained to respond quickly to overdose scenes with the goal of providing aid to victims before it is too late.

Arkansas is one of many rural states who have been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. However, according to a study by the Arkansas Department of Health
in 2020, Arkansas still has one of the highest numbers of opioid prescriptions in the nation.

“This epidemic is widespread and small towns like ours are not immune to the dangers,” said Williams. “In fact, just this year McGehee has seen two Fentanyl overdoses back to back, one of which proved fatal.” Williams said local law enforcement continues to see a rise in Fentanyl on the streets and forty Fentanyl pills were recently seized by the Desha County Sheriff’s Office.

“Considering the minute amount of Fentanyl needed to be fatal, forty pills is enough to kill a large number of people,” said Williams. “Fentanyl is an especially
scary drug. Our department has been seeking ways to stifle the growing drug threat in our area, not just from Fentanyl, but from all drugs. We are proud to be the first agency in the Tenth Judicial District to spearhead this fight through the creation of an Overdose Response Team.”

The new program is just one of a number of ways the McGehee Police Department is battling the drug epidemic. “This program, coupled with our K-9 Officer Hoot
and his handler, Cpl. Chris Hawkins, will give us a multi-faceted approach to drug detection and deterrence,” Williams said. “We will be able to approach this
complicated law enforcement duty from both the overt means with the K-9, as well as covertly with a plain clothes narcotics investigator. Our goal is to cause disruption to the drug trade in the area, while also providing much needed services to those who are struggling with addiction.”

All McGehee Police Officers are also trained and carry Narcan while on duty. Narcan (naloxone) is a fast-acting nasal spray that has the ability to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

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Office of the State Drug Director