Originally published in the LOOP weekly August 2017.
FROM THE CHIEF
The Opioid epidemic reared its Ugly head in our city in late 2013. Beginning in the late summer that year we began to see a trend in overdoes calls and calls for service from families to assist with their loved ones. In the beginning of this fight we came together as law enforcement Merrimack Valley wide and responded with the traditional police enforcement activities. By October of 2013 we were heavily involved on a daily basis with outreach activities, law enforcement actions and an attempt at education. I spend many days and nights meeting with and talking with families who were desperately looking for treatment options and rehabilitation bed for their loved ones. Days passed rather quickly and were filled with frustration and the lack of available resources. It became evident rather quickly that something big was happening and we were ill equipped to respond
I began asking myself why we (the police) are dealing with these issues and services? The answer became self-evident. There is no one prepared or in place to handle these services and we are here 24/7 and are willing to clime this mountain.
As we worked diligently to gather information, conduct research and look for a guiding light, we were blessed with the help of Phil Lahey and Representative Diana DiZoglio. After several phone calls and meetings we joined in a grass roots effort to make a difference and save lives. After all that is one of the reasons we became cops. In a very short amount of time we became part of what would grow into the Merrimack Valley Preventions and Substance Abuse Project (MVPASAP). Through the years with the help of the members of this group and the Methuen Police team we have held hundreds of individuals obtain treatment for mental health disorders and substance abuse.
In a future article I will delve more deeply into the education, enforcement and outreach efforts of the Methuen police department and the Community Addiction Resource Engagement Services (C.A.R.E.S.) initiative and our awesome employees who work daily to combat addiction and provide access to treatment.
In 2013 we started tracking the number of overdose calls we respond to and the correlating information for research, response and treatment outcomes. During a initial review of the statists we notched this year as compared to last year we have had a 19% reduction of calls for service involving overdoses. Although there is no specific data to point to explain this 100%, based on our work and interactions with those in recovery and those addicts still using we have drawn some preliminary conclusions. The significant amount of outreach being conduct state wide and nationally has resulted in more treatment options and mainly more readily available beds at rehabilitation facilities. A combination of this and a significant push in educating the public we believe has made a noticeable impact on overdose in general. However, we routinely have situations where we respond to an overdose and have had a person at the scene administer Narcan prior to our arrival. The widespread distribution of Naloxone, (Brand Name Narcan) we believe has been a major factor in the reduction of calls for overdoses.
Initially these factors seem promising. When we dig deeper into our statistics we see that the deaths from overdoses have increased by 50% this year as compared to last year. 2016 to 2017 we have had a 20% reduction in calls for overdoses with a 50% increase in deaths. This is an alarming statistic. Statistics do not always tell the whole story and there are great things being done on a daily basis to save lives and reunite families.
We are currently researching this information and are looking to determine the possible cause(s). Is the cause a more potent Heroin, A heroin laced with Fentanyl or Carfentanil, or is it pure Fentanyl or Carfentanil. Or is it a delayed call for help that leads to an irreversible overdose.
I wish I had the answers. What I can tell is HEROIN KILLS, OPIOIDS KILL and we are doing everything we can to determine answers and to make help available to anyone who wants it and resources available to anyone who has a loved one suffering from this disease.