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EB HOPE Participates in Round Table Discussion at Stonehill College

EB HOPE Executive Director, Susan Silva, Speaks at Round Table Event Discussing Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

East Bridgewater- EB HOPE’s Executive Director Susan Silva was invited by East Bridgewater Chief of Police Scott Allen and Plymouth Police Chief Michael Botieri to speak at a roundtable event to discuss the successes, challenges, and best practices associated with combatting the opioid epidemic. Sitting with EB HOPE was Plymouth Project Outreach, District Attorney Timothy Cruz, Brockton Police Champion Plan, and the SAFE Coalition of Franklin. The event was put on by Stonehill College’s Center for Non-Profit Management, with Director Lee Farrow. Over 100 people attended the event, which was held from 6:00-8:00pm on Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

At the start of the roundtable, Chief Allen and Plymouth Chief Michael Botieri asked attendees to share how they have responded to the heroin and opioid epidemic and develop a path forward that relies on collaboration among law enforcement, recovery counselors, clinicians and coalitions.  The attendees included representatives from 4 of the 5 New England states and included law enforcement officers, local coalition representatives, treatment and healthcare partners, and individuals in and representing recovery.

What I see happening is a lot of great work that everyone’s doing individually,” Chief Allen said. “The recovery piece is a big piece of this that I think we need to build even more, and we can achieve that through collaboration and getting everyone on the same page and working together.”

Chief Botieri emphasized that combining efforts and sharing the work that has already been done will have a tremendous impact. He pointed specifically to an unprecedented working agreement among all 27 Plymouth County Police Departments, including the Plymouth and East Bridgewater police, which enables them to share information and follow up with overdose victims to assist them in access treatment.  South Shore Hospital’s Chief of Medicine, Dr. Jason Tracy, was in attendance to share the hospital’s perspective and willingness to be a partner to the county-wide collaboration, which also includes partnerships with Brockton’s Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth, Good Samaritan Hospital and South Coast Tobey Hospital.

Brockton Area Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative Coordinator Hillary Dubois moderated the evening’s roundtable summit, assisting Chiefs Botieri and Allen in engaging the entire group in thoughtful discussion and the sharing of ideas.

In addition, there was an emphasis on deconstructing the legal barriers that sometimes keep those who need help from getting it.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to incarcerate our way out of this problem,” said Brockton District Court Judge Michael Vitali, during the event. “We recognize that a recovering addict is going to slip and fall, and that doesn’t mean we wash them out of the program or send them to jail. … We are seeing success with dealing with the root problem of [substance use disorders], and dealing with what has traditionally been seen as a criminal problem as a medical problem.”

Chief Allen and Chief Botieri said after the roundtable that hearing what’s working throughout the region was encouraging, and both credited the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) for supporting the work of their departments and others as they look for innovative ways to stem the tide of drug addiction.

EB HOPE Executive Director Susan Silva said she learned not to try to do too much too fast in building a coalition, but ultimately pointed to the 170 people EB HOPE has placed into treatment as an indicator of success six years into the group’s efforts.

“Here we are six years later and, oh my goodness, I’m standing here in a room with almost 100 people and we’re doing this thing,” she said. “We’re all doing this thing.”

Sarah Cloud, of Project Outreach, praised the collaborative effort of the 27 Plymouth County police departments and added that the ability to connect with victims shortly after they’ve overdosed has been invaluable.

“It is really important to us to have that second opportunity to engage individuals in their homes, or in their natural settings,” Cloud said. “It gives them a chance to engage with us and understand what their options are for recovery in a setting where they feel both comfortable and supported.”

According to Lt. Richard Linehan of the Brockton Police, when people in need walk through the police station doors in order to join the city’s Champion Plan, it sends a clear message that they’re ready to pursue recovery. He added that the department’s three-step criteria of a warrant check, criminal records check and required consent to search has not deterred those who are committed to overcoming their addictions.

“The Champion Plan has a lot of success stories, and that is a direct result of a shared desire held within every corner of our community to help people,” said Brockton Social Services Director Koren Cappiello, who added that she hopes to see an increase in statewide treatment center capacity so that more people can be get the services they need.

District Attorney Cruz said that the magnitude of the opioid problem in the county requires a change in approach, though he added that police need to step up enforcement against drug distributors.

“If we do not get out in front of this, we are going to see the same cycle of at-risk kids time and again,” District Attorney Cruz said. “I am glad to say that we are more cognizant of the root of this problem and are taking a new approach to addressing it, but that also means being more aggressive in targeting the dealers who are making this poison available to our citizens in the first place.”

James Derek, president of the S.A.F.E. Coalition, said that everyone at Tuesday’s roundtable has the same goal in mind, and there is no need to pursue that goal alone.

“Why reinvent the wheel? A lot of groups are doing amazing work on their own, but we need to break down silos, check our egos at the door and get together so that we can have the greatest possible impact,” Derek said.

Pembroke Police Chief Richard Wall said it is important for police and outreach groups to find more ways to keep people informed about where they can turn for help when they’re ready.

“When the moment strikes and someone wants to get into recovery, you really want to have something available,” Chief Wall said. “I think that’s what everyone’s trying to do.” He added that it’s critical for children to hear from everyone in their lives about the importance of making positive choices in order to prevent them from heading down a long and arduous path of addiction.