Brandon del Pozo, Chief of the Burlington Police Department (Vermont), describes his agency's role in creating an infrastructure for reducing the opioid epidemic's morbidity and mortality.
The Burlington Police Department (BPD) has focused on system-level, data-driven interventions in responding to the opioid epidemic. BDP has instituted no-arrest and no-prosecution policies for individuals who overdose. The focus is on assisting them in accessing drug treatment. Fatal overdose cases are managed as crimes, however, with a focus on tracing the high-level sources of the drugs that are killing residents. Several years ago, BDP officers were trained in administering Narcan to suspected overdose victims. All officers are equipped with it. The BDP partners with every community organization and agency involved in the response to the opioid crisis in Burlington. The partnerships involve interagency data-sharing and analysis, which become the basis for understanding the nature and scope of the problem, the crafting of an effective response, and the evaluation of a program's impact. Burlington has hired an opioid data analyst and an opioid policy coordinator. The analyst conducts data collection and analysis of the scope of the problem, tracks trends, and measures the impact of interventions. The opioid policy coordinator leads coordination efforts with other partners in the response to the community's opioid crisis. Since Burlington does not have its own department of public health, police bear the responsibility for many aspects of the public health response to the opioid crisis. This includes keeping up-to-date on the latest research relevant to the crisis and establishing relationships with a community of epidemiologists and public health officials. They vet policing policies for public health outcomes.