BOSTON — In its second year, the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative’s National Law Enforcement Summit brought together police leaders from throughout the U.S. and Canada to discuss their role in addressing the opioid epidemic.
On Dec. 6-7, approximately 400 members of law enforcement from over two dozen states and Canada came to Harvard Medical School to take part in a wide-ranging discussion on the new roles police departments have taken on — and how they’ll need to continue to adapt — in stemming the tide of opioid addiction in their communities.
The Summit featured remarks from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who renewed his administration’s commitment to supporting the work of law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts that are on the front lines of the addiction crisis.
“This year’s Summit was an extraordinary opportunity to share ideas, successes and challenges as we continue to build on the work that our partners have done to combat this epidemic,” Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade said. “It was truly inspiring to see so many people who are not only committed to this cause, but are taking tangible steps that are making a lasting impact on their communities.”
The 2018 summit included nearly twice as many attendees as the inaugural summit last year. At the summit, law enforcement leaders had a one-of-a-kind platform to share ideas on how to build upon, or launch, a pre-arrest recovery referral program, which can provide lifesaving resources to individuals battling substance use disorders in their communities.
Dr. Adams emphasized the importance of a unified effort by first responders and public health stakeholders in intervening in the opioid crisis and providing those struggling with addiction with the help they need to overcome their illness.
“Law enforcement personnel are a crucial part of our efforts to address the opioid epidemic,” Dr. Adams said.
“It’s extremely encouraging to me to see so many law enforcement leaders coming together to take a hard look at a problem that killed 72,000 Americans last year,” P.A.A.R.I. Co-Founder and Co-Chairman John Rosenthal said. “This year’s summit was tremendously successful, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that we can make on the heels of this incredible event.”
The summit featured a variety of breakout sessions addressing key facets of pre-arrest recovery based programs, including the importance of fresh attitudes toward those facing addiction, multi-jurisdictional programs, recovery intake and overdose follow-up initiatives.
“No one police department has all of the answers to this crisis, but what we’ve collectively learned is that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem,” Arlington Police Chief and P.A.A.R.I. Co-Chairman Frederick Ryan said. “The ability to work hands-on with so many peers in law enforcement is an invaluable way to explore ways that we can support people who need our help so that they can have a lasting recovery.”
Videos and presentations from the summit will be accessible online here.
The Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery. Founded alongside the groundbreaking Gloucester Police Department Angel Initiative in June 2015, P.A.A.R.I. has been a driving force behind this rapidly expanding community policing movement. We provide technical assistance, coaching, grants, and other capacity-building resources to more than 440 police departments in 32 states. We currently work with more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts alone. P.A.A.R.I. and our law enforcement partners are working towards a collective vision where non-arrest diversion programs become a standard policing practice across the country, thereby reducing overdose deaths, expanding access to treatment, improving public safety, reducing crime, diverting people away from the criminal justice system, and increasing trust between law enforcement and their communities. Our programs and partners have saved thousands of lives, changed police culture, and reshaped the national conversation about the opioid epidemic. Learn more at www.paariusa.org.