The following is a press release issued by the Fort Bragg Police Department:
On March 13, 2023, Fort Bragg Police Department was notified by California Department of Health Care Service they were successful in their grant application to the Youth Opioid Response program. This grant is in the amount of $345,363. While many entities were applying for a piece of the $12 million being offered, only thirty-four were successful and Fort Bragg PD was the only law enforcement agency.
Mendocino County has an opioid overdose rate three times the state average and is the second highest county in the state. Individuals with a substance abuse disorder represent a disproportionately large cost to the criminal justice and public health systems.
Captain Thomas O’Neal worked with Social Services Liaison Janette Ornelas and local Success Coach Bethany Brewer on a new way of attacking the problem. What began as an idea to get those just arrested into rehabilitation grew to an idea that involved kids, education, and prevention.
The newly formed Project Right Now (PRN) will be part of the Care Response Unit (CRU), already operating with high success as part of the Fort Bragg Police Department. Referrals to PRN will come from police officers, teachers, family, and friends among others. The focus of the grant is on ages 12 – 24, but all ages will be served. When a person with a substance abuse disorder is referred to PRN, Social Services Liaisons will immediately begin accessing them for extent of the problem, barriers, insurance, and rehabilitation options. They will ensure proper transportation to the rehabilitation facility if that is the issue.
Then, Bethany Brewer and her team of Success Coaches will follow up regularly before, during and after rehabilitation to assist the client with challenges and barriers that often lead to relapse. The Success Coaches will be contract employees with the Police Department to ensure proper background investigations are completed. Success Coaches will form youth advisory councils to better understand what the youth need to better respond to youth clients. Research has shown it is this follow-up care that generates the highest level of success.
Another major component of the program is education. Training middle school and high school youth, as well as their parents, about the dangers of opiates and how to get help. The intent is to prevent more youth from ever using the first time and keeping them from becoming addicted to the substance. With the proliferation of fentanyl, more youth are dying from unintentional overdoses as most street drugs have no quality or quantity control.
Youth, adults, and school staff will be trained on the use of Narcan, which is easy to administer and has very little risk. However, not using Narcan during an overdose can be deadly.
Chief Neil Cervenka said, “This is a full-circle approach to the danger opiates present in our community. We are not going to arrest our way out of the problem and a more holistic approach is needed. Project Right Now fills in the gaps and will save lives. Our police officers are finding and arresting the dealers, while referring the users to help. The officers will deal with the supply, PRN will deal with the demand.”
Mendocino Coast Clinics also received a grant from US Department of Health and Human Services for $2.5 million for the expanded medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction. FBPD is working closely with them to avoid overlapping services and provide better assistance to our community.
“We look forward to a strong partnership with MCBH and all the other organizations involved. We are building a very strong team, who present innovative ideas to best serve our community,” said Chief Cervenka.
The grant will fully fund one Social Services Liaison, fund the hourly rate for the contract Success Coaches, and cover educational expenses.