Originally published Friday, August 10, 2018 at 05:58a.m.

KINGMAN – With the City of Kingman doubling down in combating the opioid epidemic by moving forward with litigation against large pharmaceutical companies, Kingman Police Department Chief Robert DeVries and Dr. Sarah Knievel told Council Tuesday of countywide efforts to mitigate the issue.

DeVries and Knievel are co-chairs of the Mohave Substance Abuse Treatment and Education Prevention Partnership that was formed in 2007. DeVries noted Mohave County sits at the top of the list for all of Arizona in opioid-related overdose mortality rates from 2011 to 2015.

“This was our driving factor,” DeVries said. “When you look at us, we in Mohave County, we in Kingman, we want to be No. 1, but this is not the No. 1 that we want to be. And clearly we saw an issue that was upon us, and we began to collectively address the issue.”

MSTEPP is utilizing a five-step method to combat the opioid epidemic, the first of which is geared toward education and reducing the acquisition and diversion of prescription drugs.

“Of the things that have been really important with patient education is making sure they understand that these prescription medicines they have are potentially dangerous,” Knievel said. “But there’s a lot of people who don’t understand how dangerous they can really be.”

Medication drop boxes have been incredibly successful, DeVries and Knievel agreed.

“Last year, we were 26 percent above what we had collected in 2016,” DeVries said of the drop-box program. “So far this year, and last year we collected 367 pounds of medication, as of June 30 we’re already at 311 pounds. So we are just souring in regards to getting the message out there and getting the medications to us.”

Step two focuses on responsible prescribing policies and practices, and is helped along by the Prescription Monitoring Program. Knievel explained that a majority of opioids within the community at one point came from a prescription. PMP provides prescribers with information on patients and their prescription history.

“So it can really open up the eyes of the prescriber to see the different medications the patient may be looking for,” Knievel said. “The most important thing with this, and what people are trying to do, is combat people who are jumping from doctor to doctor to doctor just to get different prescriptions.”

Strategy three deals with how law enforcement can contribute to mitigation of the epidemic. These efforts include KPD’s Narcan pilot program, harm reduction, and community coalitions.

“We needed to do something different because what we were doing clearly was not having a significant enough impact,” DeVries said of the Narcan program, which reverses overdoses. “So I made the decision that we would try it, and in a very short time period we’re already making some significant success.”

Strategy four in MSTEPP is increasing public and patient awareness, and education regarding prescriptions. Its goal is to use health fairs, school speakers, public education and billboards.

The last strategy to combat the epidemic centers on enhanced assessment and referrals to substance abuse treatment. However, even with State Targeted Response Grants, Kingman is facing an uphill battle due to the lack of a patient treatment facility.