JUST A FEW HOURS have passed since family members found their 20-year-old loved one unconscious on the bathroom floor, suffering from a suspected, non-fatal drug overdose. There is a knock at the door. It is a plain-clothed Plymouth Police officer and a recovery coach. The family invites the officer and coach in and they all sit down together at the kitchen table to discuss what to expect next and possible treatment options. This is the scene being played out each day by police departments throughout Plymouth County, where an initiative is sending teams knocking door-to-door in an all hands on deck approach in the battle to combat opioid addiction.
In 2015, along with Sheriff Joseph McDonald, I formed the Plymouth County Drug Abuse Task Force, an effort to engage all community sectors to work on the opioid issue. The Drug Abuse Task Force brings law enforcement, the medical community, educators and substance abuse experts together to share information and track the current trends of the opiate epidemic. Two of our police chiefs, co-chairs of our Public Safety Committee, had been successfully running programs on their own–one initiative where follow-up visits are made with a victim hours after an overdose occurs, and another, offering community outreach and programming to families. Under the collaborative efforts of the task force and leadership of Police Chiefs Michael Botieri and Scott Allen, the two programs merged, and Plymouth County Outreach (PCO) was born.