Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on June 15 in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON — The Arlington Police Department announces that Chief Frederick Ryan testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs this morning to discuss the nation’s current opioid epidemic and look at solutions for the future.
The roundtable event, titled “America’s Insatiable Demand for Drugs: Examining Alternative Approaches,” brought together federal, state and city officials, along with medical professionals and champions of change on June 15 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Chairman of the Committee, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, shared a startling statistic at the opening of the meeting: the nation has spent about one trillion dollars on war on drugs over the last four years.
“We’re not winning that war,” Sen. Johnson said. “This is looking about different approaches. This affects every community in America.”
As one of four witnesses, Chief Ryan traveled to Washington, D.C. for the meeting on behalf of the Arlington Police Department and the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.), and spoke about how law enforcement is taking a proactive approach with those struggling with the disease of addiction in their communities.
“Every person with a substance abuse problem that I have talked to has said arrest and prosecution was never a deterrent. The physical and psychological need for the substance was far stronger than any seemingly rational deterrent that the police posed,” Chief Ryan told committee members. “This epidemic was built one drug dependent victim at a time, and the solution, while complex and multi-disciplinary, needs to be heavily based on modern evidence based treatment options. There are really only two choices here, long-term treatment or death, and we need to bring an immediate and genuine sense of urgency to this chronic disease and public health epidemic.”
Also testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee was:
• Dr. D. Scott MacDonald, Physician Lead at the Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, Canada
• Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance
• David W. Murray, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute
Each speaker offered a different perspective, allowing for an active discussion and debate.
Nadelmann stated that the best drug policy involves reducing the negative consequences of drug use – death, suffering, incarnation. This can be done, he continued, through a highly punitive drug policy that moves step by step to reduce the demand of opioids.
While Dr. MacDonald spoke of the seriousness of individually addressing each person suffering from addiction — as no one treatment can be universal — to prevent illness and death, Murray stressed that the drug supply and the availability of opioids must be focused on the supply side, to allow for this nation to give power to treatment and recovery options once the capacity of drugs is weakened.
Chief Ryan, who closed out the morning’s testimonies, concluded by calling for an end to the stigma associated with addiction to encourage all those in need to seek out the help they need to recover without fear, shame or embarrassment.
“The very real individual and institutional stigma associated with addiction is among the greatest barriers to success, and it has inhibited the power and might of the United States government from a real sense of urgency to the opioid addiction epidemic and from adopting meaningful and effective policy changes to address the demand side of this public health crisis hitting every community — large and small,” Chief Ryan said.
P.A.A.R.I. was started to support local police departments as they work with those struggling with the disease of addiction. Rather than arrest our way out of the problem of drug addiction, P.A.A.R.I. committed police departments:
• Encourage opioid drug users to seek recovery
• Help distribute life saving opioid blocking drugs to prevent and treat overdoses
• Connect people suffering from opioid addiction with treatment programs and facilities
• Provide resources to other police departments and communities that want to do more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic
P.A.A.R.I. was created by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello and John Rosenthal to bridge the gap between the police department and those struggling with the disease of addiction.