National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Individuals, communities, and health care systems across the country are struggling to cope with the ongoing overdose epidemic, which is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In 2020, drug overdose deaths rose 29.4%, including 69,710 deaths involving opioids.

Public safety personnel (police, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians) are often the first on the scene for overdose emergencies; however, the skills required to respond to these situations are not acquired through traditional public safety trainings. Although some public safety agencies have implemented overdose prevention programs, few take into consideration the unique needs of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, and even fewer are trained on engaging with BIPOC communities around substance use and overdose prevention.

To identify the extent of public safety-led overdose prevention efforts and corollary training for public safety personnel that are tailored for BIPOC communities, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, with support from the CDC, conducted an environmental scan consisting of a literature review, 11 key informant interviews, and two roundtable discussions with a diverse group of individuals with experience in overdose prevention, harm reduction, or public safety.

Findings from the environmental scan are detailed in Training and Educating Public Safety to Prevent Overdose Among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Communities.

Key Findings from These Activities

The number of public safety-led overdose prevention efforts are increasing, but there is little evidence of impacts.

Institutional, organizational, community, and individual barriers impede public safety-led overdose prevention efforts in BIPOC communities.

Effective partnerships with BIPOC communities – and with other agencies – are essential.

Public safety personnel need additional training in key topic areas.

Trauma is endemic in BIPOC communities, and therefore TI-ROSC approaches may need to be incorporated.

For more information, please contact Emma Amoako at