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MA police departments take the lead in a new approach to addiction

Brockton’s Police Department is the latest in Massachusetts to take an active and compassionate role in helping people dealing with opioid and other drug addiction. Law enforcement has been front and center in dealing with the consequences of drug addiction and the toll it can take on individuals and communities. Until recently, their primary tool has been to arrest people with substance use disorder. Treatment options were limited, and often police departments had to release people with substance use disorders back into the environments that supported their addiction.

With the recent addition of Brockton, three police departments in Massachusetts, including Gloucester and Arlington, now offer programs that protect many people from arrest and instead offer them treatment options. These programs are:

These Massachusetts programs work with state-licensed and other treatment providers, hospitals, clinicians, and individual volunteers to assess people’s needs and help them find appropriate treatment services.

PAARI – the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative – came together in 2015 to support the work of the Gloucester Police Department, which was the first to initiate a program like this. PAARI is driven by the principle that “addiction is a disease, not a crime,” and works to:

  • Encourage opioid drug users to seek recovery
  • Help distribute life-saving opioid blocking drugs (like Narcan) to prevent and treat overdoses
  • Connect drug users with treatment programs and facilities
  • Provide resources to other police departments and communities that want to do more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic

(from http://paariusa.org/about-us/)

PAARI works with the medical community and science-based treatment programs to develop and implement programs that prevent overdose and limit demand for opioids by helping people who are addicted. And this approach appears to be taking hold. Several more police departments across the state are partnering with PAARI to expand addiction treatment initiatives. Police departments across the country and other agencies are also in support.

Accessing these services is just a matter of walking through the doors of the police departments that host them.  To learn more about treatment services or get referrals, call the Helpline at 800-327-5050 or find services online.

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