WASHINGTON — The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative’s Third Annual National Law Enforcement Summit brought together police leaders from throughout North America to discuss law enforcement’s role in addressing the opioid epidemic.
From Wednesday, Dec. 4 to Friday, Dec. 6, law enforcement and recovery leaders from 27 states and Canada attended information sessions at multiple locations adjacent to the U.S. Capitol to share their collaborative efforts to combat the opioid epidemic both nationally and in their own communities.
The goal of the summit was to equip these leaders with concrete, practical solutions that they can use to prevent overdose deaths and provide lasting help to those suffering from substance use disorders.
“It was remarkable to once again see so many interested parties working toward the common goal of addressing the opioid epidemic,” said P.A.A.R.I. Executive Director Allie Hunter. “It was an informative and inspiring three days, and we hope those who attended came away with good ideas and are ready to take those ideas back to their local communities and continue the fight.”
A highlight of this year’s summit was a briefing and panel discussion hosted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
The briefing connected national law enforcement leaders with key members the ONDCP in order to build and maintain relationships and exchange ideas on combating the drug crisis through non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.
“In many places around the country, first responders look to get those suffering from addiction into treatment, not into jail,” ONDCP Director Jim Carroll told those in attendance. “In large part, this success is rooted in the hard work of P.A.A.R.I. and the people who came to the White House [for this event]. Through P.A.A.R.I., law enforcement officers have contributed not only to getting dangerous criminals off our streets, but also helping people suffering from addiction get access to the treatment they need.”
Hunter acknowledged those in the audience who are in recovery, commending them for their efforts and the work they do in their communities. Many of these individuals shared their powerful personal stories with the audience.
Hunter also thanked P.A.A.R.I. Recovery Corps members who made the trip to D.C.
“This is an incredibly impressive room of people and I am honored to know and work with all of you,” Hunter said. “Seeing all of you here gives me incredible hope … This is truly a movement and it is building momentum quickly.”
On Thursday, Dec. 5, a Keynote Address was delivered by U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams. In his speech, Adams discussed the many interactions he has with local law enforcement officials and first responders on a regular basis, and the important role these officials play in combating the opioid crisis.
“I truly believe we will never be able to overcome our nation’s health problems, and especially the opioid epidemic, without the help of our officers and first responders,” he said. “We’re never going to be able to turn around our nation’s poor health, and make no mistake about it, it is poor, without partnering and supporting all of you.”
Adams closed his remarks by telling officers and first responders that federally a push will be made to redouble efforts to provide the tools necessary to keep the public safe at all levels.
Other speakers during the day included Congressman Bill Keating (Mass.), Congressman Paul Tonko (N.Y.), U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) and representatives from police departments in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan.
There was also a special presentation by Barbara Stewart, CEO, Corporation for National & Community Service, to recognize PAARI’s cohort of Recovery Corps members.
“We are proud to support organizations like P.A.A.R.I. that harness the power of our nation’s most powerful resource – our people – to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic,” said Stewart. “The AmeriCorps members who serve with P.A.A.R.I. represent the best of America. Their work is evidence that service can be a part of the solution to our nation’s challenges.”
Topics discussed during the day included post-overdose outreach, the neuroscience of addiction, how to make referrals to evidence based treatment and recovery supports, the relationship between stigma and language and personal stories from people in recovery.
“The various discussions and presentations that took place during this summit truly show the power of collaboration between public health, public safety and the recovery community,” said P.A.A.R.I. Board Chair John Rosenthal. “Having so many interested officials from across the country in one place illustrates how widespread this epidemic is, but also how serious we take combating it and finding real solutions to it.”
The summit concluded Friday, Dec. 6, with post-summit training, networking and advocacy opportunities, including a roundtable at the Corporation for National & Community Service headquarters. Guests were provided the opportunity to meet with legislators to discuss the opioid epidemic and local efforts to address it.
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 MA 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 500 police departments in 35 states. We currently work with more than 130 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, reshaped the national conversation about the opioid epidemic and have placed over 24,000 people into treatment since its founding in June 2015. Learn more at paariusa.org.