Thursday, June 16, 2016

Massachusetts town's success at fighting opioid addiction offered as a model for all rural places

Law-enforcement officials in Gloucester, Mass. (Best Places map), have reduced local opioid use by offering treatment and immunity, Zachary Toliver reports for The Rural Monitor in the second part of a series on the opioid epidemic in rural communities. The first part, published in May, looked at how the opioid epidemic tests the limits of rural health care.

As part of the Gloucester Police Department's "Angel" program, when addicts come to the station to ask for help, an officer will take them to the local hospital, "where they will be paired with a volunteer 'angel' who will help guide them through the process," the department website says. "If you have drugs or drug paraphernalia on you, we will dispose of it for you. You will not be arrested. You will not be charged with a crime. You will not be jailed. All you have to do is come to the police station and ask for help. We are here to do just that."

The program, which began in 2015, has referred more than 430 patients for treatment and overnight incarceration costs at the station have dropped 75 percent, Toliver writes. "With a population of 29,000 and less than 40 miles from Boston, Gloucester isn’t considered rural by most commonly-used definitions. However, the GDP’s achievements gave life to the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which is a partnership of over 100 police departments and 250 treatment facilities across the U.S. Many of these affiliated police departments are rural and mimic the Angel program step-by-step."

"The National Rural Health Association’s new policy paper on the rural opioid crisis urges more rural communities to explore the use of the Gloucester model and other unprecedented programs to combat opioid addiction," Toliver writes.

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