By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Capt. William McNamara is a spokesman for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. He responded to questions from The Current by email.
President Donald Trump on Aug. 8 said “strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society.” When dealing with addiction, should the focus be on enforcement?
As Sheriff [Don] Smith has said many times: “The answer is ‘all of the above.’ He believes the crisis demands a multi-pronged response of increased border security, stepped-up anti-drug enforcement, better education and awareness in our schools and communities about how opioid use can lead to addiction, and more accessibility to addiction treatment programs. From a supply-and-demand perspective, law enforcement actions will help reduce the supply of illegal drugs coming across our borders and being sold on our streets, while education and treatment initiatives will help reduce the demand for drugs.
What is the Sheriff’s Office policy when a deputy arrests someone and determines the person is under the influence of drugs?
We have protocols for processing a person who is under arrest and exhibits signs of being under the influence that take into account the severity of impairment.
Is the person taken to the county jail?
If the impairment level is severe, the deputy or investigator would take the person to the Sheriff’s Office and Correctional Facility for processing. There, a registered nurse from the Correctional Facility Medical Unit — which is staffed 24 hours a day — examines the person, in consultation with the jail physician.
Is there treatment offered at the jail?
If a person committed by a court to jail and is addicted to a drug or alcohol, the jail physician will make an assessment and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment to assist in withdrawal.
What type of treatment?
The Jail Medical Unit, under direction of the jail physician, utilizes various courses of treatment, including regimens for acute alcohol withdrawal, acute benzodiazepine withdrawal [from a tranquilizer such as Xanax or Valium], and opiate withdrawal.
When making an arrest, will sheriff’s deputies ever take the person to an emergency treatment center?
If a person exhibits profound impairment, such as unconsciousness, suppressed breathing or extreme mental disturbance caused by drugs, the deputy or investigator would request that an ambulance and paramedic response to take the person to the hospital, prior to processing at the Sheriff’s Office and Correctional Facility. I should note that our deputies, narcotics investigators and jail correction officers are all trained in and equipped with naloxone [Narcan], which they can administer to reverse the effects of an overdose.