Winthrop Police Department is one of 11 police departments participating in a pilot project to utilize fentanyl test strips as a new tool to engage people with opioid use disorder and help prevent overdose deaths.
We are in extraordinary times. Every day we hear words like unprecedented, historic, and unbelievable as descriptors for the current state of affairs. The COVID19 emergency has offered us in public safety a chance to make a very important decision between expansion or retraction of services and support to a vulnerable population that has historically been marginalized, stigmatized, and criminalized. It is during states of emergency when our priorities offer a sneak peek into our values. As a society, we have historically prohibited the use of and punished the person who consumes illicit intoxicating substances by way of the criminal justice system. The opioid epidemic of the past twenty years clearly demonstrated that the War on Drugs has not worked as a tool for managing what is in fact a mental health and public health bio-psycho-social phenomenon that touches everyone in our world in one way or another.
Social distancing can lead people down a road to isolation. Isolation can exacerbate all mental health challenges including substance use disorder. I would argue that it is easier to experiment with helping those who struggle with their use of intoxicating substances during times of economic expansion. The opposite is true when we enter a downturn and funds become scarce and people become fearful and angry. The current state of affairs will test our values. The values of life, liberty, and happiness will become targets. It will put stress on the way we protect and serve our people. COVID19 could become a justification to allow fear to fuel a retraction from the very people for which connection is not a luxury but is in fact a necessity.
We offer food, shelter, clothing, and medication to those in need during normal times. We are seeing services such as these expanded due to COVID19. I challenge to not allow COVID19, fear, and scarcity to trigger a retraction of services, support, and connection to our brothers and sisters who use any intoxicating substances. Just like the other needs, connection and care should be expanded. People will unfortunately increase their use during the pandemic. They, like others, will need more, not less services. P.A.A.R.I. has provided police departments a powerful tool to demonstrate understanding, care, and hope to our brothers and sisters. They developed a kit that can be used as a powerful example of our values (Life, Liberty, and Happiness).
Winthrop public safety and health have decided to continue searching for people in our community that need connection and care. P.A.A.R.I. has provided our multidisciplinary team a powerful new tool to enhance connection while giving people a way to find out if there happens to be any fentanyl present in a drug as well as a way to reverse an overdose. We have always been looking for those in need. It is during states of emergency that we need to do the opposite of what fear is trying to do. We must expand our services, continue to search out those in need, and extend hope to them by way of a P.A.A.R.I. kit. These kits can be thrown to a person on a porch. They can be dropped off in a mailbox. We have even started mailing them to people. Thanks to bold and courageous action on part of P.A.A.R.I. and D.P.H. we have another tool on our tool belt to push us towards those in need.
Winthrop police will continue to search for those on the margins who want to connect. We will continue by way of dispatch logs and police incidents attempt to contact and ask if people need help. We will continue to wrap around anyone that says they want our help with our multidisciplinary team comprised of a nurse, mental health professional, and recovery coach. We will expand on the foundation known as C.L.E.A.R. by offering a PAARI KIT to anyone who says they want one. I write today to ask everyone in public safety to boldly consider courageous expansion rather than retraction of police services. Our values are on display. Let’s show everyone who we are!
Winthrop Police Department
Sgt. Sarko Gergerian MS, MHC, CARC (Doctoral Student)
Community Impact Unit
C.L.E.A.R. Team Member
617.846.1212 X 0