BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Officials in Bismarck have now launched a program that aims to bridge the gap between emergency services for overdose victims and treatment for opioid addiction.

The nation has been battling the opioid crisis for decades. In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not get addicted to opioid pain relievers.

Healthcare providers soon began prescribing pain relievers at higher rates.

Despite the long battle, the opioid crisis refuses to loosen its grip on the nation. And unfortunately, like many states, North Dakota is struggling to overcome opioid addiction.

“A lot of times things take awhile to get to North Dakota but this one when it came it came hard,” said Dave Draovitch, Bismarck Police Chief.

The first time Bismarck started seeing opioid overdoses was in 2016. Last year, Bismarck police know about 133 overdoses. There were a total of 19 deaths.

Chief Draovitch stated they will need the community’s help to win this battle.

“There is no way we can arrest our way out of this problem. It’s not possible. We need help from people like Heartview and from Sanford,” said Chief Draovitch.

The increase in opioid overdoses has prompted Heartview, Sanford, and the Bismarck Police Department to launch a new program.

“The goal is to stop people from dying,” said Cathy Palczewski, Heartview grant project manager. “That’s the goal, and often times people are at their most vulnerable right after an overdose.”

The city will be receiving $900,000 in grants over the next three years from the Federal Justice Department for this site-based program.

The money will place staff from Heartview Foundation in hospital emergency rooms.

What makes this program different is that the program provides a peer support person.

“Oftentimes it’s the loneliness factor that causes people to use in the first place,” said Palczewski. “So having that stable person in their life will hopefully help.”

Overdose victims not ready to commit to treatment will receive initial peer support services from Heartview and then be transitioned to community outreach provided by Ministry on the Margins.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health is partnering with Heartview and the North Dakota Safety Council to provide free Narcan training.