In July 2015, the Arlington, Mass. Police Department and Chief Frederick Ryan outlined a new strategy for police officers to get directly involved in the demand side of the heroin and opiate crisis by working with a public health clinician to conduct direct outreach to the known addict community and their families, friends, and caregivers.
The Arlington Police Department is committed to aggressively enforcing the drug laws, especially when it comes to investigating and arresting drug dealers and drug traffickers. However, once a drug dealer is arrested, police are often left with their list of customers.
These lists are literally collections of people, often Arlington residents, who are living in the grip of addiction.
A public health clinician will be embedded with the Arlington Police Department, and together, they will reach out to these people and their families. The goal of the Initiative is to educate families, help provide and teach the administration of potentially lifesaving Nasal Narcan, and to make addicts and their families, friends, and caregivers aware of treatment options and resources available to them.
“In the past, we would not do anything with the information we learned about the customers of drug dealers, and the addicts would simply find a new dealer for their next fix,” Chief Ryan said. “The time for inaction is over.”
While not identical, The Arlington Outreach Initiative is inspired by the Gloucester Police Department ANGEL Initiative, created by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello. Gloucester’s Initiative allows people who suffer from addiction to turn over their remaining drug supply and paraphernalia to the Gloucester Police Department without the threat of arrest and then fast-tracks the participant into a treatment center.
“Chief Campanello has started a very important conversation among municipal police departments and police chiefs across the country, and the Arlington Police Department is following suit by implementing our own program based on Arlington’s unique needs as a community,” Chief Ryan said.
Both programs seek to make Nasal Narcan more widely and inexpensively available to addicts and their families. Both programs advocate for long-term recovery centers. Most importantly, both programs seek to end the stigma of addiction, recognize it as a disease, and put police officers in a position to directly help people suffering from it.