By Mark Powell
Working Together to Save Lives
For over a decade now, eastern Iowa has struggled with a serious heroin problem. As the purity of the drugs increased, so did the loss of life. In 2015, there were 25 overdose deaths in Cedar Rapids alone. Authorities recognized that there were significant challenges to combating the increased number of heroin overdoses and fatalities.
Things changed with a summit in Iowa City that year. “It was the first time they brought different sectors together to look at the problem,” says Pat Reinert, Assistant Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa. “Those sectors often don’t talk to each other. But when they did, police more and more realized, ‘we can’t arrest our way out of the problem.’ They found they needed the community and partners to bring about meaningful change.” The Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative was created shortly thereafter.
The Initiative is a partnership among the Cedar Rapids Police Department, United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, and Midwest HIDTA (the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas section). It’s one of only two jurisdictions to receive HIDTA funding, which typically goes to law enforcement alone. Its focus is on enforcement, treatment, and prevention. Officer Lindsay Powers is the current Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative Coordinator.