This report describes: 1) the history and current state of the opioid crisis in East Baton Rouge Parish; 2) the current and planned efforts of the Innovative Prosecution Solutions for Combating Violent Crime and Illegal Opioids (IPS) grant to respond to the crisis; and 3) recommendations for criminal justice practitioners regarding the opioid crisis in our community. The goal of the IPS grant is to reduce opioid-related deaths by fostering interagency collaboration to disrupt local opioid supply chains, educate the community about the dangers of opioid abuse and addiction, and provide support for individuals with opioid use disorder.
The rising prevalence of opioid-related overdose deaths and violence is a significant issue in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. From 2014 to 2018, opioid poisoning-related emergency department visits increased by approximately 45%. During this five-year period, heroin poisoning-related emergency department visits increased by approximately 30% and non-heroin opioid poisoning-related emergency department visits increased by approximately 59%. From 2018 to 2019, opioid overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish increased by approximately 29%. Opioid overdose deaths have consistently accounted for nearly all overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish during this timeframe.
Early attempts to address the opioid crisis were challenging due to a lack of trust and cooperation among governmental agencies and community members most affected by the opioid epidemic. Criminal justice practitioners (e.g., law enforcement, correctional officials, defense attorneys, prosecutors, court officials) have an important role in reducing opioid-related addiction, opioid-related overdose deaths, and opioid-related violence within East Baton Rouge Parish communities. Individuals with substance use disorder are often fearful of interacting with law enforcement due to the belief that they will be arrested for their addiction, decreasing the likelihood that these individuals will reach out for critical treatment. Therefore, public health officials are often reluctant to include criminal justice practitioners in opioid use disorder-related efforts, despite their ability to engage in meaningful, productive partnerships. For these perceptions to change, criminal justice practitioners must demonstrate a commitment to addiction and overdose prevention by forming vital partnerships and supporting their partners' prevention efforts to address this epidemic. By engaging in meaningful community partnerships, criminal justice practitioners can implement and support efforts to improve the lives of individuals with opioid use disorder and reduce opioid overdose deaths. The recommendations were informed by empirical research related to criminal justice and public health interventions concerning opioid use disorder.
Winchester, E., Little, K., Reling, T., Richardson, G, & Rhodes, J. (2020). The Criminal Justice Response to the Opioid Crisis in East Baton Rouge Parish: Current Actions and Future Considerations. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University, Social Research and Evaluation Center.