Recognizing the complex nature of the opioid crisis, COOP therefore aims to coordinate law enforcement, local communities, and schools in a combined effort. To emphasize this, YPD Commissioner Christopher Sapienza stated, “we are forging a powerful alliance against opioid abuse and addiction.”
By promoting trust, empathy, and understanding, the program operates on a two fold mission: education and intervention.
Firstly, education plays a pivotal role in prevention. The program equips community members with knowledge about opioid abuse, including its signs, risks, and available resources. By raising awareness and promoting informed decision making, COOP empowers individuals to identify early warning signs of opioid abuse.
The program also supplies schools with the tools needed to prevent opioid abuse and intervene effectively. Focusing on students from grades 7 to 12, regular school seminars and discussions will play a crucial role in achieving this goal. Through these educational initiatives, COOP engages both students and educators to dispel misconceptions and promote informed decision making.
Experimentation with opioids cannot only be fatal as a consequence of addiction; it can result in tragedy from just the first attempt.Dr. Luis Rodriguez – Yonkers Public Schools Interim Superintendent
In addition to youth education initiatives, COOP plans to reach out to adults as well. One strategy sets up educational “pop-up” stands at local festivals and events. These information stands will equip visitors with knowledge about opioids, signs of abuse, and available resources. Furthermore, training in the use of emergency overdose medicines like Narcan (naloxone), will be held at various times in accessible locations.
COOP’s intervention approach is equally vital. The program serves as a resource for those already affected by opioids by connecting them with support networks and treatment services. With trained officers and community advocates on hand, COOP approaches each individual with empathy and respect, recognizing the complexity of addiction and the need for complete care.
However, enforcement of criminal law still plays a fundamental role in the battle against the opioid crisis. As such, the Yonkers Police Department‘s Narcotics Unit will concrete their forces to locate and apprehend distributors of these illicit substances. By targeting areas with increased overdoses, the police aim to reduce the availability these drugs across the city. Although apart from traditional sentencing, individuals arrested for these crimes receive access to addiction counseling and offered rehabilitation and diversion.
In 2019, the New York Attorney General Letitia James filed multiple lawsuits against several drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids. As part of the numerous settlements that followed, the State received $1.6 billion in funds to address opioid-related issues.
Yonkers, as the third largest city in the state, has received approximately $800,000 from these funds. The COOP program therefore is a direct beneficiary from this legal fight and our local government is proud of the program’s launch. Mayor Mike Spano encapsulated this pride when he declared, “I commend the Yonkers Police Department for taking a proactive, educational approach with the Community Opioid Outreach Program. By working together, we can strategize and utilize resources so we can save lives.”
The Yonkers Police Department emphasizes that the fight against opioid abuse is a collective effort. In this, the police and community members must join forces together. Through outreach, education, and intervention, COOP offers a path to healing and hopefully transformation for an entire city.
For more information about the COOP program or other community related initiatives, contact the Yonkers Police Community Affairs Division at (914) 377-7293.
You can also visit the program’s website directly at bit.ly/YPDCOOP