Reno, NV, Site Spotlight

Prescription drugs are among the fastest growing form of drugs being abused in the United States, and Nevada ranks first among the 50 states in prevalence rates. The Reno Police Department and its research partner at the University of Nevada, Reno sought to reduce prescription drug abuse throughout the Reno community by achieving three goals:

  1. Increase knowledge about the problem (Education/Prevention).
  2. Reduce the number of prescription pills available for illicit use (Supply Reduction).
  3. Aggressively investigate and prosecute offenders (Law Enforcement Suppression).

The Bureau of Justice Assistance selected the Reno Police Department to receive funding through the Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) because their program reflected the core principles of SPI, most notably collaboration, comprehensive responses, and prevention. The foundation of the Reno SPI involves a collaborative partnership between the Reno Police Department, its research partner, and key stakeholders—including non-profit coalitions (e.g., a local substance abuse coalition called Join Together Northern Nevada), pharmacies, physicians, other healthcare professionals, school district personnel, and parents and their children.

The Education/Prevention component of the Reno SPI included a school-based survey that captured prescription drug use patterns among students. Survey results helped to guide the development of an informational video that was shown to more than 1,100 students across six regional schools. The Reno SPI also included specialized training for police regarding the nature of prescription drug abuse; information on how to report prescription drug offenses more accurately; relevant criminal statutes and charging methods; and pill confiscation and identification. The SPI team also developed individualized training regarding various aspects of the prescription drug abuse problem for medical professionals (many of whom reported that they had not received such training previously), including physicians and nurses, pharmacists, and dentists. More than 530 medical professionals in the Reno area received the training.

The centerpiece of the Supply Reduction component involved a series of prescription drug round-ups, in which more than 750,000 pills were collected and destroyed. The Reno SPI team also distributed 800 “MedSafe” locking medicine cabinets for home use, and distributed more than 100,000 educational stickers that pharmacies placed on prescription bags given to customers.

The Law Enforcement Suppression component involved the assignment of a dedicated detective to handle all prescription drug abuse and fraud cases. The Reno SPI team also opened a phone line for the medical community to report suspicious or fraudulent behavior.  Early results from the program evaluation suggest that progress has been made toward reducing the availability of prescription drugs in the Reno area. The Reno SPI highlights the importance of collaboration between law enforcement and other stakeholders to address this complex problem, most notably parents and their children, medical professionals, and the prosecutor’s office. The Reno Smart Policing Initiative has been recognized by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, and by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/25/smart-policing-reno-nevada). 

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