Cedar Rapids Police to address opioid epidemic during town hall meeting Thursday

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Rod Courtney is a member of the eastern Iowa chapter of C.R.U.S.H., or the Community Resources United to Stop Heroin. He lost his son Chad to an opioid overdose in 2016.

He's sharing his son story during a town hall meeting at the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library Thursday night.

It's an event being held by Cedar Rapids Police Department and more than 20 area groups to address the opioid epidemic in the area. There will also be training for people on how to use Narcan, the drug the reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

On average, more than 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cedar Rapids police said there have been 6 overdoses so far this year.

That's why Courtney wants to show that these are real people facing an uphill battle.

Courtney calls losing his 38-year-old son the worst day of his life.

"It was life-changing,” he said. “It was to the point where, even to today, life is different. I think about him every day. I think about the people who are out there who are still actively using."

He wants to make it easier for addicts to get treatment. "Beds are more times than not are full, and when you have someone with a substance abuse disorder,” he said. “When they get to that point when they're ready, which is a key piece to this, when they get to that point when they're ready, you have this really small window of opportunity."

Every Cedar Rapids Police officer keeps a Narcan kit in their squad car. They started carrying them last September.

Police said that while the Narcan is to help those in the grips of an overdose, they are targeting enforcement efforts at the dealers.

"Not the overdose victims, because they need help,” said Officer Lindsay Schrader with Cedar Rapids Police Department. “We want to take away the people that are putting them in that situation. We want to take the drug dealers that typically aren't in our community, and keep them out of our community."

Courtney hopes he can deliver a powerful message to people Thursday night.

"This is real, and it's happening in our community,” he said. “They can take that information and it can prompt somebody else into action. Most important information like this saves lives."

Cedar Rapids police have used Narcan twice since they started carrying it.

KCRG-TV9 reached out to other agencies across eastern Iowa.

Waterloo Police started carrying it last year, but officers said they have not used it because the Waterloo Fire Department normally beats them to the scene.

Dubuque Police have used it eight times since equipping it two years ago. That doesn't include an instance where police used it on an officer in April after they came into contact with a powdery substance during a search warrant.

While Iowa City police do not carry it, but Johnson County EMS officials are equipped with it.