Re­searchers: Po­lice ef­fort helps 376 drug ad­dicts

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY PHILIP MARCELO

BOS­TON | A novel drug ad­dic­tion pro­gram de­vel­oped in a small Mas­sachusetts fish­ing town and since repli­cated in dozens of cities na­tion­wide was able to place al­most 400 ad­dicts into treat­ment nearly each time they sought it dur­ing the first year of op­er­a­tion, re­searchers say in a re­port in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

The team from the Bos­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Bos­ton Univer­sity’s School of Pub­lic Health say 376 ad­dicts sought as­sis­tance 429 times from the Glouces­ter Po­lice Depart­ment’s An­gel pro­gram from June 2015 to May 2016. They re­ceived the help they needed nearly 95 per­cent of the time, re­searchers say.

Davida Schiff, a Bos­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter doc­tor and lead au­thor of the re­port, said that rate is far higher than the 50 to 60 per­cent for sim­i­lar, hos­pi­tal-based ini­tia­tives.

Part of the rea­son, she said, is that Glouces­ter’s ad­dicts were vol­un­tar­ily com­ing to po­lice seek­ing help.

“They were mo­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als that came to the sta­tion ready to en­gage in care,” Mr. Schiff said.

The re­port also notes that Glouces­ter po­lice es­tab­lished a re­la­tion­ship with a lo­cal treat­ment cen­ter to make place­ment eas­ier. Its of­fi­cers were work­ing roundthe-clock to se­cure the place­ments. And Mas­sachusetts man­dates health cov­er­age for drug detox­i­fi­ca­tion.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in com­mu­ni­ties that have adopted Glouces­ter-like heroin ini­tia­tives say the re­port helps val­i­date their work.

“Po­lice of­fi­cers do not get to pick and choose who they help, and that puts us in a po­si­tion to make a ma­jor im­pact on the heroin and opi­oid epi­demic,” said Fred­er­ick Ryan, po­lice chief in the Bos­ton sub­urb of Ar­ling­ton.

The An­gel pro­gram has been repli­cated in some form by more than 150 po­lice de­part­ments in 28 states since it was launched in June 2015. It gained no­to­ri­ety af­ter the then-po­lice chief promised heroin ad­dicts they could turn in their drugs at the po­lice sta­tion without fear of ar­rest, so long as they agreed to start treat­ment.

As part of the pro­gram, of­fi­cers per­son­ally reach out to treat­ment cen­ters on be­half of ad­dicts, ar­range their trans­porta­tion to the fa­cil­i­ties and, if needed, pair them with a vol­un­teer “an­gel” for emo­tional sup­port.

David Rosen­bloom, a pro­fes­sor at Bos­ton Univer­sity’s School of Pub­lic Health who helped write the re­port, sug­gested the pro­gram’s suc­cess un­der­scores the dif­fi­culty of ac­cess­ing drug treat­ment ser­vices.

Roughly half of the par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gram had prior drug-re­lated ar­rests, he noted.

“It says some­thing when ad­dicts are go­ing to the po­lice sta­tion for treat­ment,” said Mr. Rosen­bloom, a found­ing board mem­ber of the Po­lice As­sisted Ad­dic­tion and Re­cov­ery Ini­tia­tive, a Mas­sachusetts­based non­profit that sup­ports the An­gel pro­gram and partly fi­nanced the re­search. “It’s a real con­dem­na­tion of how the whole treat­ment sys­tem faces the pub­lic.”

The next step for re­searchers is fol­low­ing up with first-year par­tic­i­pants to see how they fared in treat­ment and be­yond, he said. The re­searchers also hope to study sim­i­lar pro­grams na­tion­ally.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A drug ad­dic­tion pro­gram in Glouces­ter, Mas­sachusetts, was able to place al­most 376 ad­dicts into treat­ment nearly each time they sought it dur­ing the first year of op­er­a­tion, re­searchers say in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

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