GLOUCESTER — John Rosenthal, co-founder and chairman of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.) and Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade announce that P.A.A.R.I. and several of its law enforcement partners — the Arlington, Plymouth and East Bridgewater Police Departments — are featured in the Police Executive Research Forum’s report on the opioid epidemic.
The report, titled “The Unprecedented Opioid Epidemic: As Overdoses Become a Leading Cause of Death, Police, Sheriffs, and Health Agencies Must Step Up Their Response” delves into what the United States’ response must be as opioid related deaths continue to plague the nation. Findings in the report are a product of PERF’s April 6 conference at the New York City Police Department Headquarters building in Manhattan, where more than 150 officials convened.
“No one is born hoping to die with a needle in their arm,” Rosenthal said in the report. “This is a chronic disease without a cure, like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. We have to treat this chronic disease like every other chronic disease.”
As part of PERF’s report, it highlighted 10 steps that all law enforcement agencies should follow to address the opioid epidemic. These steps, which include recommendations like equipping officers with Narcan, helping those struggling with addiction into treatment and forming community partnerships, are core values and actions taken by P.A.A.R.I. its members police and sheriff departments.
In Plymouth County PERF spoke with East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen, who shared how he and Plymouth Police Chief Michael Botieri are collaborating with the 27 chiefs in the county to decrease overdoses and help those struggling get into recovery.
“We’re actually sharing within law enforcement, the names of overdose victims, all the information, and the particulars for the sole purpose of ensuring that they are offered treatment resources and help if they don’t accept treatment upon transport to a local hospital,” Chief Allen said in the PERF report. “If someone from my community overdoses in Chief Botieri’s community, they get an alert, so that a victim of an overdose occurring in another town does not go unnoticed.”
EB HOPE, a local coalition, in collaboration with EB Police created a Drop In Center where community members can come to obtain a wide range of services and often times speak with treatment center representatives from around the region. Within 12-24 hours of a nonfatal overdose in Plymouth, police and a health clinician go to the home of the victim to check in and offer recovery services.
Over in Arlington, Police Chief Frederick Ryan told PERF that one of the key components of tackling the opioid epidemic for the Arlington Police Department has been recognizing that the greatest risk of a fatal overdose comes from those who have previously overdosed. Arlington Police have directed resources, including a substance abuse health clinician, within the community to target those who have overdosed to prevent recurrence and to assist those people with recovery efforts.
“On heroin, for a while we had some information but we didn’t realize what we know,” Chief Ryan explained in the report. “We had the names of the people at the highest risk of fatally overdosing, right in our database…that was the population of people we targeted with an outreach coordinator.”
Prior to joining P.A.A.R.I. in 2015, Arlington was experiencing about one fatal overdose per month, but in 2017, as of early April, they’ve had zero.
Hunter McDade highlighted in the PERF report that police departments are in a unique position to help those struggling with the disease of addiction by targeting people before they enter the criminal justice system, in turn, preventing recidivism.
“With the complex disease of addiction and a health care system that is so difficult to navigate, these programs make it easier for people to access the care they need and deserve,” Hunter McDade told PERF. “These programs save lives, reduce crime, save money, and build trust between police and community members.”