PLYMOUTH COUNTY OUTREACH: Initiative to get substance users into treatment drawing national attention
Representatives from police departments in all 27 communities in Plymouth County attended Tuesday’s first joint meeting of Plymouth County Outreach.
PLYMOUTH – There’s no question about which Plymouth County communities are working to combat the region’s drug addiction problem.
Based on the turnout for the first joint meeting of Plymouth County Outreach, they all are.
Representatives from police departments in all 27 communities in the county met Tuesday with judicial officials and health providers for updates on the fight to end addiction.
The meeting was hosted by Plymouth Police Chief Michael Botieri and East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen, who organized Plymouth County Outreach last December.
The organization sponsors drop-in centers where people with substance use disorders can come for information and help in getting treatment. The network also works with health providers and treatment centers to offer immediate treatment to anyone who suffers an overdose, within 24 hours of their emergency.
The group expanded from its initial core of a dozen communities last December to include every city and town in the county by last spring.
Weekly drop-in centers in East Bridgewater, Plymouth, Scituate and Brockton have served more than 800 users and their concerned loved ones in the last year alone. The follow-up visits with overdose victims have succeeded in leading nearly 90 percent of users into treatment.
Allen and Botieri are getting well deserved recognition for their creating the initiative.
The national Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) honored the two police chiefs with leadership awards for their work in starting the program. Botieri and Allen have been asked to share the program with officials in Michigan, Oregon and Ohio.
In his keynote address at Tuesday’s meeting, Gil Kerlikowske, the former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the whole nation is taking note.
“People around the country are really watching what Massachusetts and this collaborative are doing,” Kerlikowske said.
Beyond tracking users and offering help within 24 hours, the network keeps everyone in its system updated on developments, offering the first real-time numbers for assessing the severity of the problem.
In the past, and still for most other areas, law enforcement had to rely on years-old data in evaluating the scope of the drug problem. But with officers in each Plymouth County police department now trained in how to submit and evaluate data, departments can tap into real-time data for any town.
The exchange of information within the network is limited to just two officers to protect confidentiality, but even limited sharing of information can be crucial, as recent studies show that 39 percent of people suffering an overdose do so somewhere other than in their own hometown.
The network allows hometown officers to contact the users at home, where, thus far, the network has been especially successful in explaining treatment options and getting people to accept a bed in a treatment center.
Sarah Cloud of BID-Plymouth hospital said the follow-up visits are especially effective because overdose victims are usually embarrassed by the time someone talks to them at the hospital. Many just can’t wait to leave, she said.
In the first six months of 2017, there were 728 overdoses in Plymouth County. But that represented only 607 people. More than 100 people overdosed at least twice in that span. Twenty-five people overdosed three or more times.
More than two-thirds of the overall overdose victims were men. More than two-thirds of all overdose victims also ranged in age from 20 to 39. Of the 728 overdoses, 67 proved fatal.
Officials announced that two mainstays of the drop-in center effort, EB Hope and Project Outreach, have partnered and will now be known as Plymouth County Outreach HOPE.
The group is hosting an enhanced drop-in session next week to celebrate Plymouth’s one-year anniversary in offering drop-in services. The celebration will be from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, July 25, at the New Hope Chapel at 89 Court St., Plymouth.