By Mark Powell
A Badge, A Heart, A Fresh Chance
They say numbers don’t lie. And the overdose death numbers were climbing at an alarming rate in Arlington, Massachusetts. Then-Police Chief Frederick Ryan realized his department had to act.
In 2015, the Arlington Opiate Outreach Initiative (AOOI) was created. “If you have a loved one expecting a child you would have a plan,” says Chief Ryan. “We try to have that mindset and apply it to their loved one who has a substance disorder. Let’s build a plan to ensure their survival.”
Embedded in AOOI is Rebecca Tsopelas, the jail diversion clinician who is a crucial link to those struggling with addiction. She works with the police department, officers and first responders to provide outreach to individuals after a crisis and determine what level of care is needed. That creates a positive relationship with someone struggling with substance use disorder while also providing follow-up calls and letters to those impacted.
The Arlington Opiate Outreach Initiative relies on building relationships with community members and those struggling with addiction to ensure they receive the help and support they need. Using naloxone as the “handshake”, the program educates families on how to help loved ones and keep the door of communication open for all involved.
Positive relationships, the human connection between someone struggling with addiction and the help they desperately need, is making a big difference in lives in Arlington. It’s amazing the things that can result simply from looking at the numbers.
AOOI was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.