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ASU researchers receive federal funding for new and existing police training programs

Image by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

November 21, 2019

Arizona State University’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety received a new grant to evaluate a program that will train police in the emergency treatment of opioid overdoses, and secured ongoing funding for an existing program that educates officers in the use of body-worn cameras.

The new, four-year grant — awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the federal First Responders-Comprehensive Recovery Act — equips Tempe police officers with Narcan for emergency treatment of opioid overdoses and supports analysis to be carried out by the center.

Narcan is the first and only nasal form of naloxone that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such suspected overdoses.

A total of $400,000 from the $2 million grant will go to the center, based at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. ASU’s portion of the funding will enable the center to complete process and outcome evaluations of training for the Tempe officers and social service outreach provided by EMPACT, a Tempe-based suicide prevention center, said Michael White, center co-director.

“Tempe, like other cities, has struggled quite a bit with opioid overdoses,” said White, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Watts College. “The uniqueness of what we’re doing is what happens after the administration of Narcan.”

Once the patient’s life has been saved through a first responder administering Narcan, the focus shifts to treatment and counseling, White said. The grant will enable the patient to undergo up to 90 days of treatment that includes counseling provided by EMPACT.

ASU researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the program, White said, answering questions about the services each patient receives, whether treatment resulted in fewer overdoses and whether patients are enjoying an improved quality of life once off opioids.

“The idea is to get the person to the point where they won’t OD again,” White said.

Body-worn camera grant renewed

Additionally, the center's federal contract to work with CNA, a Virginia-based nonprofit research corporation, has been renewed for three more years. 

ASU joined with CNA Corporation and Justice and Security Strategies in 2015 to facilitate the training and technical assistance for law enforcement agencies that receive funding from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to purchase body-worn cameras. The original grant of $800,000 to ASU was supplemented to a total of $1.6 million over the four years of the contract, he said.

The ASU team, led by White and Charles Katz, provides a wide range of support to participating agencies, including peer-to-peer training, webinars, speaker series, policy and training templates and other services, as needed. White and Katz also have directed a number of research efforts for the program, resulting in several reports, publications and presentations.

This year, the grant was renewed for $750,000 over three years. It keeps ASU providing law-enforcement agencies with expert knowledge on the use of such cameras, said White, who added it is likely the latest grant amount will likewise be supplemented.

U.S. police agencies that receive federal funding for the cameras are approved for two years. So far, approximately 400 police agencies have participated in the program, with about 90 more added each year, White said.

ASU is the only university working with police agencies receiving federal funding for the cameras, he said, providing the necessary training, assistance with forming administrative policy and help choosing a camera vendor.

Cameras require a large administrative investment not only in the devices themselves but in additional support staff to examine, store and catalog video footage, White said. The cameras have been effective for many law-enforcement agencies in improving their relationships with communities and increasing their accountability with the public, he said.