By Katie Rayner
BRIDGEWATER- Plymouth County Outreach held their quarterly meeting Thursday, Sept. 26, at Bridgewater State University. The Rondileau Campus Center Grand Ballroom at the university was filled with personnel from the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement from around the county, clinicians, educators, and recovery coaches. All were gathered to discuss the effects of the opioid crisis happening in Plymouth County and what is being done to combat this epidemic. If substance use disorder or an overdose is thought of as a pebble dropped in water, the ripple effect after an overdose can spread wide, with those closest to the overdose victim—children and families—being the first and hardest hit, Timothy Cruz, district attorney of Plymouth County said.
The meeting started out with a few remarks from Vicki Butler, program coordinator for Plymouth County Outreach, who then invited Sean Varano from Kelley Research Associates to give a presentation on preliminary overdose data from 2019. Varano laid out basic data from the CIMS program, surrounding overdoses, and then dived into the tier two data, which is for reoffending overdose victims. Tier two data strategically pinpoints people in the community who have overdosed numerous times in order to give them more support and resources needed to overcome their addiction. Another key statistic highlighted in the Kelley Research Associates data was “at risk” referrals, where family members or friends are contacting the police because they are concerned about a family member or friend, that hasn’t overdosed but is “at risk.” The number of “at risk” people continues to rise which a positive for Plymouth County because it means people in the community are feeling comfortable enough to contact the police knowing that they can help get resources and support needed to help that individual. This shows that the community collaboration of Plymouth County Outreach is working, providing a safe, supportive, and resourceful place for community members to go to.
After going over the data, District Attorney Cruz introduced the Drug Endangered Children’s Initiative panel. The panel consisted of Lt. Dick Linehan from the Brockton Police, Marissa del Rosario from the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, Dr. Gina Williams, Assistant Superintendent of the East Bridgewater School District, and Katie Mapa, the new Drug Endangered Child Clinical Advocate from the United Way of Greater Plymouth County’s Family Center. Lt. Linehan discussed how the red envelope system used to work in Brockton. The red envelope system has been replaced by Handle with Care, the program that allows police officers to notify the school if a child has had a traumatic experience at home. This simple program protects the child’s privacy by putting the words “handle with care” on a notice to the school with the child’s name.
Marissa del Rosario talked about the Trauma Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) whose main goal is for children exposed to violence and adverse childhood experiences to succeed in school. TLPI provides training to develop an awareness of a traumatic experience, its impact on behavior, and relationships and the need for a whole school approach.
Dr. Gina Williams, Assistant Superintendent of the East Bridgewater School District talked about her district’s trauma informed school and staff. Williams described her staff’s training on adverse childhood experiences, which allow for a better understanding of what’s happening in that child’s life. “There’s more going on in that child’s life than the test or the lesson,” Williams said. Williams also stressed the importance of making sure that her staff is taken care of so that they can better respond to children, and the impact of increasing number of mental health providers and guidance counselors available for children. “Not to treat them, but to get them the resources they need,” said Williams.
District Attorney Cruz then introduced Kati Mapa, the Drug Endangered Children Initiative Clinical Advocate from the United Way of Greater Plymouth County Family’s Center. The goal of the Drug Endangered Children Initiative (DEC) is to increase awareness and help agencies to identify and respond to drug-endangered children, provide families with resources and referrals, and assist children and caregivers in navigating complex service systems. Mapa explained that anyone can refer a child to the DEC Initiative and because the program is grant-funded, insurance coverage is not an issue. The District Attorney’s Office, the United Way and Plymouth County Outreach are partnering with local school districts to provide a trauma sensitive response for drug endangered children. “Through training, direct services, and building community partnerships, we can help identify these children and help them build the resilience to overcome this adversity,” said Cruz.
After the panelists were spoke, Haley Kennedy, a PCO recovery coach shared her personal story of recovery and hope. She explained the impact that PCO can have on one person, and their family, and how it provides so much hope for that individual or family impacted. After Kennedy, Plymouth County Chief of Police Michael Botieri and East Bridgewater Chief of Police Scott Allen shared some updates about PCO and what initiatives they have in place moving forward.