Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier brought some good news to the Board of Commissioners during their December work session and also discussed plans to find additional dollars for law enforcement and public safety officials to utilize in their fight against drug overdoses in the years to come.
Brazier told commissioners in a brief update during their December 2 work session that in tracking overdose deaths statewide over the year, a trend is definitely moving downward overall in the number of people who die from taking prescription pain killer or illicit drugs compared to years past when figures skyrocketed.
“It’s not a remarkable decline in the opioid and benzo(diazepines) overdoses, but I think what we’re doing at this level is showing results,” Brazier said. “It (the number of deaths) has brought great interest in stopping this crisis and bring it to a close as quickly as possible.”
Where Brazier remains concerned about overdose deaths is with hard illicit drugs purchased on the street level, like black tar heroin that he said hasn’t caused a death in Polk County since the Vietnam era, or those caused by methamphetamine use that have caused a number of deaths in the county this year already.
Polk County remains a plaintiff in a nationwide lawsuit against drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid overdose epidemic that was joined in 2018.
However, he applauded the efforts of law enforcement to try and curtail the problem and believes he might have a way to help them in the future.
“We’ve entered into a pilot program with the U.S. Department of Justice. This particular program is acclimated to and curtailed to midsize and smaller counties such as ours,” he said.
He said the goal of the program was to target block grant funding with 100 percent funding or an 80-20 match to help provide money for equipment purchases and more in the nationwide fight against opioid sales and can be used for more than just the coroner’s office.
“If the Sheriff needs new vehicles, we can apply for grants and utilize it for new vehicles,” Brazier said. “If Chief (Kenny) Dodd needs long guns, we can utilize some for it.”
He added that his goal is to “bring as much Federal monies back in here as I can.”
Though he said the program remains in the early stages, he said he would be making a request in the future for official documentation lending support from the county commission to taking part in seeking grants.
Commission Chair Jennifer Hulsey expressed her appreciation of Brazier’s efforts and the coroner’s office being a part of programs that are making an impact in the opioid overdose crisis.
That includes a program that was spearheaded by Redmond EMS Service Director Marty Robinson — who also serves as a deputy coroner — to work with the Federal government on a pilot program to provide mapping of overdose deaths.