Sheriffs suggest ways to tackle drugs and addiction in Arizona
PHOENIX — With big fentanyl busts in the news and numbers up in Arizona, experts are talking about the best ways to address addiction.
Elected officials and law enforcement came together as part of a roundtable on the Save Our Streets plan – introduced by state representative candidate Matt Gress. The subject was different ways to fight the influx of drugs like fentanyl.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels puts the problem into perspective.
“With fentanyl, in 2022 we’re still leading the nation with seizures here in Arizona,” Dannels sid. “We know it’s an epidemic, not just in our state but in this country.”
He also said buy-in from the top-down is necessary.
“It starts with the [Biden] Administration, with a majority in Congress saying no more drugs in our communities, we’re going to take a stance against that,” he said. “Governors in the country, sheriffs in this country, police chiefs, mayors… we all need to share that same message.”
Sheriff Dannels stresses at the end of the day, the solution to the influx in drugs starts at the source.
“We know the root cause – it’s the criminal cartels,” he explained. “These trans-national organizations that are bringing these illicit drugs – meth, fentanyl, cocaine – across our borders. We know where it starts, let’s put the defense there.”
Also discussed at the roundtable was the need to fight addiction.
Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes presented on potential solution: the “Reach Out” program. “It’s re-entry planning at the county jail level,” he explained.
Sheriff Rhodes stresses early intervention is an important factor in fighting addiction, and if jails learn about their inmates, they can play a part in that process.
“If they have addiction issues, mental health issues or other factors that are likely to lead to recidivism,” he said, “we want to connect those people to services as they’re leaving the jail.”
It’s all in an effort to not waste a unique opportunity, Sheriff Rhodes explained.
“The real point behind all of this is making sure that very first contact with the criminal justice system is impactful,” he said.
The plan, another way to address Arizona’s rising drug numbers, is already seeing success around the state.
“It’s in Yavapai, Pinal, Mohave, and Coconino [Counties],” Sheriff Rhodes said. “And we’ve talked about making it statewide.”