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Police monitor an area of Philadelphia that has become a hub for heroin use. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Police officers are increasingly shifting away from their punitive, law-and-order approach to the opioid epidemic and experimenting with other strategies more commonly used by social workers.

Between the lines: The staggering crisis has radically changed how local police departments operate, with officers on the front lines directing opioid addicts to drug treatment programs and allowing users to turn in drugs instead of arresting them.

By the numbers: In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses —about two-thirds of them from heroin, prescription opioids and synthetic opioids, per the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.

"We can’t arrest our way out of this. It’s just impossible."
— Police Chief Peter Volkmann of Chatham, NY tells Fusion

Where it stands:

  • Virginia state troopers have started carrying Narcan, a drug to revive people from opioid overdoses, joining other police officers from North Carolina to San Diego and Massachusetts.
  • Departments have also created teams such the Post Overdose Response Team in Chillicothe, Ohio, and the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which is used by 300 agencies in 31 states to connect addicts with treatment and recovery programs.
  • In Columbia County, where Chatham is located, there has reportedly been a 227% increase in opioid-related deaths in the last 10 years. Volkmann runs Chatham Cares 4 U, a program that allows residents struggling with substance abuse to turn in drugs in exchange for medical assistance and rehab.

Flashback: This compassionate move marks a stark contrast with the hardline approach taken in the 1980s and 1990s during the crack-cocaine crisis, which resulted in mass arrests in majority black and Hispanic communities.

Meanwhile, punitive actions are being taken against drug companies through lawsuits filed by numerous states and local governments. The lawsuits claim that drug manufacturers and distributors have improperly marketed opioids or failed to report large suspicious orders.

Go deeper:

The rise of newer, deadlier opioids

America's opioid death rate has soared since 1999

Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.