City to vote on new Charleston Police overdose response, prevention program

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:13 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:28 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Nearly $1 million could be coming to the Charleston Police Department to be used for drug-abuse assistance.

The Charleston City Council will vote on the $900,000 grant from the Department of Justice Tuesday afternoon. If approved, that money would go toward the brand-new Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Site-based Program.

This potential new program calls for a coalition between community agencies, specifically the Charleston Police Department, who respond to overdoses to also follow-up with overdose victims and provide help and resources.

“You wouldn’t really think of law enforcement playing this role, but they are out there every day responding to overdoses and they really know the people in the community,” Rachel Lefebre, who serves as coordinator for the department’s Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative Outreach, says. “That’s why I think we’re excited about this program is because it’s kind of taking advantage of that role that they have and emphasizing their role as a public safety agency.”

The nearly $1 million would help fund the project for three years, and if the Charleston Police program continues after that, the estimated cost would be $285,000 per year, Lefebre says.

“The goal by then would be to have all county entities participating in the plan and help contribute to that cost,” Lefebre says. “That includes Mount Pleasant Police, North Charleston, Charleston Police and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.”

The funding includes a Project Coordinator, two Peer Support Specialists and software to support overdose follow-up, in addition to training from the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative, according to Lefebre.

These positions and training would work directly with police to help prevent overdoses and provide follow-ups to individuals who overdose.

“The communications between law enforcement agencies is very important because oftentimes people from other parts of the county are buying and using drugs in different jurisdictions,” Lefebre says. “This new level of communication is going to be very helpful with connecting with people who need resources the most.”

Charleston City Council will be voting on whether to approve the grant and project at Tuesday’s City Council meeting at 5 p.m. Click here for the full agenda.

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