By Laura Conover, Regina Romero, and Adelita Grijalva
This article was originally published by The Arizona Daily Star.
Today we address a major issue facing our community: The challenges of people without shelter, with substance use disorders, suffering overdoses, and committing property crime are real.
As your Mayor, your Board Chair, and your County Attorney, there is not an hour of the day that goes by without the thought of a mother worried sick about her son, lost and ill with a substance use disorder; a father worried about his daughter walking safely to school; neighborhood associations preserving their parks; and small business owners who deserve a sense of control over their property.
We, the leadership responsible for these issues within the City of Tucson and Pima County, are working together to tackle these realities that directly or indirectly impact virtually all of us who call Southern Arizona home.
Only when we work together in a partnership: City and County, can we begin to address these difficult challenges. We acknowledge the public may not always be informed about the earnest work that happens behind the scenes to address these concerns, and so we are committed to communicating with the public more effectively. This op-ed is just a first report on what is happening on our streets, in our parks, and alongside small businesses.
Although the pandemic did not cause these problems we are dealing with, the stress of so much illness and loss of life and the necessary COVID limitations certainly exacerbated them.
This became a puzzle that the City and County are committed to solving together.
This City/County team is laser focused on fentanyl, the overdose epidemic it has intensified, and accountability for substance dealers who harm our most vulnerable, disrupt businesses, and affect the quality of our daily lives. What follows is just a sampling of the efforts that are underway.
Under the leadership of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Pima Board Supervisor Chair Adelita Grijalva, and County Administrator Jan Lesher, we are on schedule to expand the use of the jail property and considering court ordered detox;
County Attorney Laura Conover is in daily review of the jail population and initial appearance hearings that determine who is detained and who is eligible for release;
TPD has instituted Place Network Investigations to uncover networks of offenders and places within neighborhoods that facilitate violent crime;
Sheriff Chris Nanos, Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar, and County Attorney Conover put out a first-ever joint public service announcement, “Make The Call,” regarding the Good Samaritan Law to encourage people to call 911 immediately in case of overdose, and to increase the distribution of Narcan;
The Pima County Health Department, as a recipient of opioid settlement money, supports the above efforts; and has active programs addressing these issues from the public health perspective.
County and city leadership are meeting with stakeholders, community non-profits and County Health Department experts to hear their concerns and develop steps to address their specific needs.
Without a doubt, the most effective way to meet these challenges is in collaboration with each other and the public we serve. We do not have all the solutions, but we are taking a broad approach to finding the best way forward in seeking a healthier and safer region.