Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)
Washington County, Pennsylvania has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the country with 36 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020. Washington County formed the Washington Opioid Overdose Coalition and the Washington County Overdose Fatality Review Team (OFRT) with the goals of identifying and reporting trends in overdose fatality cases in order to effectively build and implement overdose reduction strategies. In 2020, the OFRT discovered that approximately half of the decedents had never engaged with substance use disorder treatment services and that, while most decedents had limited contact with the criminal justice system, approximately 20% committed low-level drug related driving under the influence (DUI) offenses at some point prior to their fatal overdose. As such, contact with the criminal justice system at the time of the DUI presents the earliest point of intervention that could have effectively directed these individuals to treatment.
The purpose of the proposed program is to develop a post-booking diversionary initiative that identifies offenders who have tested positive for opioids and opiates after a DUI stop and offers an alternative sentencing option by linking the offender to evidence-based treatment. Bundled with the diversionary program is the support needed to provide Washington County with access to drug data through blood testing. This will allow for real-time analysis and dissemination of information regarding illicit drug trends in Washington County to the appropriate authorities, while concurrently incentivizing law enforcement to be more involved with this diversion initiative.
Federal support is crucial for supporting the program, as there is no funding designated at the state or local levels for this purpose. Washington County has no other funding sources that will allow these efforts (diversion and offender blood testing) to happen simultaneously.