OPD, nonprofit to work together to help addicts, families

OXFORD – The Oxford Police Chief is partnering with Truth Pharm to provide a free community Narcan training at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, at the Oxford High School. Chief Richard Nolan additionally announced a new ‘Road to Recovery’ program for addicts.

“I lost my son to a heroin overdose. Our family has had close experiences with addiction to opioids and heroin for eight years now and have dealt with many treatment facilities and providers,” said Alexis Pleus. “I was never told about Narcan (Naloxone) and had no idea what it was until after I lost my son.”

Narcan is an opioid antagonist and is used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose and therefore can be used to revive a person who may be experiencing a heroin or prescription pill overdose.

Pleus formed the organization Truth Pharm after losing her son to addiction.

“In response to the growing rate of addiction in our local community and after a recent close call overdose in the village, revived by naloxone thanks to the Norwich Ambulance, the Oxford Police Department is taking an aggressive approach in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Nolan. “The session is one of the steps the department is initiating.”

Anyone 16 and older is welcome to attend the training to learn about recognizing the signs of an overdose and how to administer the Narcan.

“For any parent or family member who suspects or knows for certain their loved one is addicted to opiates or heroin, is in recovery, or even if you just suspect use, I would urge them to get a free naloxone kit in their house as soon as possible,” said Pleus.

“I have several friends whose children were saved with Narcan and some of them have gone on to inpatient treatment and are in recovery now,” said Pleus. “Narcan saved their family from the grief my family will live with forever and gave their sons and daughters a second chance at life. I want that for everyone.”

The Oxford Police Department has also signed on to the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), the program developed by the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department.

PARRI works with opioid addicts with the belief that the disease of addiction is not a crime of addiction. Departments commit to encourage opioid drug users to seek recovery, distribute

Narcan, connect addicts with treatment programs and facilities, and provide resources to other police departments and communities that want to do more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic.

Nolan said that Truth Pharm will be assisting to develop the program and are actively seeking volunteers to work with this program.

“Students aged 16 and older are absolutely encouraged to attend,” said Nolan. “Statewide, the number of high school students that have reported using heroin has doubled and Oxford is not an exception. We've seen far too many local students and graduates become addicted to heroin and other opioids and this trend is only increasing.”

Nolan added, “We’re a small community, but we’re far from immune to the epidemic that has struck our nation and our student population is certainly of special concern. Whether you’re a freshman entering high school or a senior moving onto college or entering the work field, our agency encourages you to come and learn to identify the signs of an overdose and become trained in this lifesaving drug. According to studies, more than 90 percent of people suffering from addiction began using substances before their 18th birthday and a majority of heroin users report first abusing prescription medication. The more we are able to train, the more lives that we can potentially save.”

Nolan said he believes there is still a stigma surrounding addiction on the systemic level.

“That's part of the reason rates of addiction have continued to rise at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

“While we've made great strides in other areas of public health, drug overdoses have risen to become the greatest cause of accidental death in the United States. I’ve been in law enforcement for 27 years and what we're doing isn't working.”

Added Nolan, “We can't hide our addiction problem and doing so only hurts us as a community. Addiction is a disease that doesn't discriminate based on age or socioeconomic status and it's time that we, as a community, recognize this. You can't see addiction. Those suffering from addiction are people just like you and I. They're our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, co-workers, friends, and neighbors and we’re burying these members of our community, our loved ones, and friends at an unprecedented rate as a result of addiction. This stigma needs to go and we need to respond to addiction with a framework of community support for recovery rather than to continue to react to addiction episodically. Sobriety is short-term. Recovery is long-term.”

In addition to Thursday’s free training at the school, the OPD will be rolling out its PAARI plans shortly.

“When the Oxford Police Department officially announces the opening of its Road to Recovery Program, if someone walks into our agency seeking help with their addiction, they will be greeted by a team of professional law enforcement officers and volunteers who will support them in every step of the way in their road to recovery and in locating treatment,” said Nolan. “As law enforcement, we serve to protect and assist one and all, without discrimination. Throughout history, law enforcement has served to provide support to those struggling with mental health issues, those who have become victims of domestic violence, and others who are having trouble in their life and just need support. We’re there for them and there’s no reason why we, as law enforcement, should not reach out and support those suffering from addiction. Addiction is a disease not treated by arrest, but by a foundation of community support.”

Nolan said that through using the OPD’s partnership with PAARI, they will have access to more than 300 treatment centers across the country who provide scholarships for those seeking treatment and since November, OPD agency has been forming partnerships with in-state treatment providers and other services to ensure that the agency is able to support those suffering recovery before, after, and throughout treatment.

“When you walk through our doors, we’ll guide you through an intake process, make contact with treatment providers, and assign volunteers to stand with you every step of the way. We’ll work with you to develop a plan to address your addiction best suited to you and we’ll follow-up with you before, during, and after treatment. If you have drugs or drug paraphernalia to hand in, we’ll take them into custody for destruction. We will not judge you, we’re here to help you. There will not be a day that we don’t think of you and we will always do our best to provide continual support throughout your road to recovery,” said Nolan.

With regard to Thursday’s event, Pleus added, “I believe every citizen should get one [a Narcan kit] regardless of whether they have a person suffering from addiction in their family or not. These can be used to save an elderly loved one from an accidental overdose (which is more common than people realize), a neighbor, your teen’s friend or someone in a parking lot. Free training and a free kit and you can be a life saver.”

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