Articles, Blog

Post-Overdose Outreach Reporting with NEPR’s Karen Brown | Connecting Point | Feb. 27, 2020

February 28, 2020


>>>AS OPIOID ABUSE CONTINUES
UNABATED, SOME COMMUNITIES ARE FOCUSING ON KEEPING THE DRUG
USERS ALIVE, AND ONE APPROACH GAINING TRACTION AROUND
MASSACHUSETTS IS CALLED POST OVERDOSE OUTREACH. NEW ENGLAND PUBLIC RADIO’S KAREN
BROWN HAS A FOUR-PART SERIES THAT EXPLORES THIS APPROACH, AS
WELL AS THE REACTION TO ITS USE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SOME
MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM. SHE SAT DOWN WITH ME IN THE
STUDIO TO SHARE WHAT SHE DISCOVERED IN HER REPORT.>>WELL, I ACTUALLY HAD BEEN
DOING A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT OPIOID ADDICTION AND ADDICTION
IN GENERAL, AND I JUST KEPT HEARING ABOUT THIS NEW OUTREACH
PROGRAM CALLED THE DART PROGRAM, DRUG ADDICTION RECOVERY TEAM. WHERE IT JUST SOUNDED LIKE A
GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR A RADIO STORY, FRANKLY, TO GO OUT WITH
POLICE OFFICERS AS THEY’RE TRYING TO FOLLOW UP WITH PEOPLE
WHO ARE USING DRUGS. AND I JUST THOUGHT THAT WAS A
NEW AND INTERESTING METHOD OF HELPING DRUG USERS, AND ALSO A
NEW ROLE FOR THE POLICE. I ACTUALLY FOR THIS SERIES DON’T
ACTUALLY GO OUT WITH POLICE ON THEIR VISITS. BUT I FIND OUT HOW THE PROGRAM
WORKS.>>AND YOU CHECK IN WITH PEOPLE
WHO ARE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE PROGRAM, AND YOU HEAR ABOUT SOME
OF THE PROS AND CONS AND SOME OF THE TROUBLE BEHIND IT. BUT JUST LET’S BACK UP A SECOND
AND TALK ABOUT WHAT POST OVERDOSE OUTREACH REALLY IS AND
WHAT IT ENTAILS.>>RIGHT. SO THE IDEA IS PEOPLE WHO HAVE
AN OVERDOSE ARE EXTREMELY LIKELY, AND SURVIVE IT, ARE
EXTREMELY LIKELY TO HAVE ANOTHER OVERDOSE AND POSSIBLY NOT
SURVIVE. SO THE PEOPLE THAT DEVELOPED
THIS KIND OF MODEL, WHICH IS NOT JUST HAPPENING HERE IN HAMPSHIRE
COUNTY BUT IN MANY OTHER PLACES, THOUGHT HOW CAN WE FIND THESE
PEOPLE WHO HAVE OVERDOSED AND GET THEM HELP BEFORE THEY
OVERDOSE AGAIN. SO THAT’S ESSENTIALLY WHAT IT
MEANS, POST-OVERDOSE OUTREACH. AND THE POLICE DEPARTMENT SEEMED
LIKE THE MOST NATURAL PLACE TO START, BECAUSE THEY’RE THE ONES
THAT ANSWER THE 911 CALLS, WHICH IS WHERE YOU HOPEFULLY CALL
AFTER AN OVERDOSE. SO THAT’S HOW THESE DIFFERENT
TEAMS GOT INVOLVED IN REACHING OUT TO PEOPLE POST-OVERDOSE.>>BUT ISN’T THAT ALSO A BIT
TRICKY, BECAUSE AS I THINK ONE WOMAN WHO YOU INTERVIEWED SPEAKS
TO THE FACT THAT SHE’S USING AN ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE THAT SHE KNOWS
SHE SHOULDN’T BE USING, THE LAST PEOPLE SHE WANTS TO HANG OUT ARE
THE POLICE.>>RIGHT.>>SO HOW ARE PEOPLE CONFRONTING
THAT CHALLENGE?>>WELL, THE POLICE ARE FINDING
THAT THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF PROGRAM WHERE EVERYBODY IS LIKE,
OH, GREAT, THANKS FOR HELPING ME OUT. FOR ONE BECAUSE, YES, AS ONE OF
THE PEOPLE I INTERVIEWED SAID, EVERY TIME THEY’VE BEEN ON
DRUGS, THEY’VE BEEN RUNNING FROM THE POLICE OR TRYING TO HIDE THE
DRUGS OR, YOU KNOW, THAT’S NOT THE FIRST PERSON THEY WANT TO
SEE. SO THIS IS PART OF THE LEARNING
CURVE, I’M HEARING FROM POLICE OFFICERS WHERE NAY GO OUT, THEY
WAIT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIME AFTER THE EMERGENCY IS OVER,
THEY INTRODUCE THEMSELVES. THEY ARE GENERALLY IN THEIR
UNIFORMS, BUT THEY TRY AND EXPLAIN WE’RE HERE TO HELP,
WE’RE NOT HERE TO ARREST YOU, YOU’RE NOT IN TROUBLE. BUT THEY ARE FINDING THAT NOT
EVERYBODY IS REALLY EAGER TO SEE THEM. SO IN MANY CASES THEY GO BACK
AGAIN, MAYBE THEY SAY OKAY, YOU’RE NOT READY FOR ME NOW, CAN
I COME SEE YOU LATER. MAYBE IT TAKES A FEW MONTHS. AND IT’S NOT JUST THE POLICE,
THEY ALSO SAY, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO TALK TO ME, MAYBE YOU WANT TO
TALK A RECOVERY COACH, AND THAT’S ALSO PART OF THE PROGRAM. OR MAYBE YOU DON’T WANT TO TALK
TO ME AT ALL, YOU JUST WANT TO FIND OUT WHERE TO GET CLEAN
NEEDLES, OR MAYBE I CAN HELP YOU FIND A HOT MEAL. SO THERE’S A RANGE OF OPTIONS
THEY OFFER DEPENDING HOW RECEPTIVE THE PERSON IS, YOU
KNOW, AFTER GOING THROUGH AN OVERDOSE. AND ALSO I SHOULD ADD THAT IT’S
NOT ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN THROUGH OVERDOSES, THAT’S OFTEN
HOW THE 911 CALL SORT OF BRINGS THEM TO THE PROGRAM, BUT
SOMETIMES IT’S JUST PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH OTHER
KINDS OF CRIME, MAYBE RELATED TO DRUG USE, LIKE SHOPLIFTING, OR
THEY FIND OUT THROUGH SOME OTHER MEANS.>>SO IF A POLICE OFFICER IS
ENCOUNTERING THIS PERSON WHO THEY MIGHT TYPICALLY CHARGE WITH
A DRUG OFFENSE, HOW ARE THEY CHOOSING TO SAY, OKAY, I’M NOT
GOING TO USE THE FULL HAND OF THE LAW IN YOUR PARTICULAR CASE,
HOW IS THAT FAIR, HOW IS THAT EVEN LEGAL? DO THEY TALK ABOUT THAT AT ALL?>>YOU MEAN TO NOT DO THE
ARREST?>>RIGHT.>>I THINK IT’S TRICKY. I DIDN’T ACTUALLY PROBE INTO THE
LEGAL ISSUES, ALTHOUGH THAT WOULD BE A GOOD FOLLOWUP STORY. BUT THEY BASICALLY SAY THIS IS
NOT WHY I’M HERE, AND, I MEAN THIS IS PART OF A BROADER CHANGE
IN HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT IS DEALING WITH DRUG USE IN
GENERAL, TRYING TO MOVE AWAY FROM ARRESTING FOR LOW LEVEL
OFFENSES, LIKE POSSESSION OR LIKE SHOPLIFTING.>>BUT WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT
THE DRUG KING PINS HERE THAT ARE BEING OFFERED THIS TYPE OF
ASSISTANCE.>>RIGHT. IN FACT I INTERVIEWED THE
DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF HAMPDEN COUNTY YESTERDAY WHO WAS SAYING
HE STILL FEELS LIKE IT’S IMPORTANT TO GET AT THE DEALERS
AND PEOPLE WHO ARE SELLING AND PEOPLE WHO ARE PUSHING DRUGS. BUT THIS IS FOR FOLKS THAT ARE
MORE VICTIMS OF THE WHOLE EPIDEMIC.>>BECAUSE IT’S ALSO A BIG
CHANGE THAT WE’VE SEEN NOT ONLY WITH THE OPIOID EP EPIDEMIC BUT
WITH MARIJUANA BEING LEGALIZED, SOME SAY MAYBE THIS IS A RACIAL
JUSTICE ISSUE BECAUSE BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE WERE DIGS
PROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY MARIJUANA ARRESTS OR RELATED TO
CRACK, AND IS IT FAIR TO TREAT PEOPLE IN THIS WAY. SO
INTERESTING TO HEAR THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY SAYING NO WE ARE STILL
GOING TO PURSUE LEGAL, YOU KNOW, THE ILLEGALITY OF THIS ISSUE.>>YES, AND THAT’S ACTUALLY
INTERESTING. I HAD HEARD COMMENTS FROM
LISTENERS TO SOME OF, A PREVIOUS STORY I DID ON THE SAME PROGRAM,
IN WHICH THEY EXPRESSED SORT OF THE FRUSTRATION THAT WHY IS
THERE ALL THIS EMPATHY NOW WITH PEOPLE WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE
THERE’S MORE MIDDLE CLASS, MORE WHITE USERS OF OPIOIDS.>>STATE STATISTICS POINT TO THE
FACT THAT TYPICALLY IT’S 50 PLUS WHITE MEN WHO USE OPIOIDS OR
ABUSE.>>RIGHT. SO THERE IS A QUESTION, SHOULD
THEY HAVE BEEN DOING THIS DURING THE CRACK EPIDEMIC WHEN THERE
WERE MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR WHO WERE AFFECTED, I THINK THAT’S A
FAIR QUESTION TO BRING UP. I DON’T GET INTO THAT IN IN
SERIES.>>YOU ALSO TALK ABOUT RECOVERY
COACHES, TALK ABOUT THEIR ROLE IN THIS AND HOW THEY WORK WITH
THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH DRUG USE.>>SO A RECOVERY COACH IS NOT A
CLINICIAN. IT’S SOMEBODY WHO HAS AN
ADDICTION HISTORY OF THEIR OWN AND THEY’VE BEEN TRAINED TO HELP
PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR OWN RECOVERY, OR MAYBE TO GET INTO
RECOVERY, OR TO JUST BE A SOURCE OF SUPPORT. AND THE DART PROGRAM HAS POLICE
WORKING WITH COACHES. SO AS YOU POINTED OUT, MAYBE THE
POLICE ARE THE FIRST CONTACT, BURR MAYBE SOMEBODY WHO IS USING
DRUGS DOESN’T WANT TO CONTINUE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A POLICE
OFFICER, BUT THEY MIGHT WITH SOMEONE WHO IS MORE OF A
FRIENDLY PRESENCE, YOU KNOW, SOMEONE MO HEARINGS A HISTORY OF
ADDICTION AND UNDERSTANDS IT. SO THEY OFTEN PUSH OFF THE
PROGRAM TO THE RECOVERY COACHES, OR HAND OFF, MORE TO THE POINT,
AND THEN THEY DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP THAT WAY AND THEN
THAT TENDS TO BE WHERE THE LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP ENDS UP.
>>AND IT’S NOT ALWAYS A HAPPY ENDING, AS YOU REPORT, RIGHT? SOMETIMES THESE PEOPLE JUST STOP
USING THE PROGRAM OR STOP BEING INTERESTED. SO HOW DO THE COACHES NAVIGATE
THE DIFFICULT NATURE OF WHAT THEY’RE DEALING WITH?>>WELL, I THINK THEY FINE IT
VERY SAD, LIKE ANY HUMAN WOULD. I THINK WHAT THEY TELL ME IS THE
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESS ARE WHAT THEY GET THROUGH AND THERE’S
ENOUGH PEOPLE THAT ARE VERY GRATEFUL AND THAT REALLY GO
THROUGH THE PROGRAM AND GET HELP AND DO BETTER. THERE ARE MANY CASES WHERE THAT
DOES NOT HAPPEN, AND I THINK YOU LEARN THE REALITIES OF ADDICTION
AND THE REALITY OF RELAPSE. AND THEY JUST COPE WITH IT.>>RIGHT NOW, AND THERE MIGHT
NOT BE ENOUGH EVIDENCE BECAUSE THIS IS SUCH A RELATIVELY NEW
PROGRAM, BUT WE KNOW THAT OPIOID OVERDOSES, WHILE DEATHS HAVE
GONE DOWN THE OVERDOSES THEMSELVES HAVEN’T NECESSARILY
GONE DOWN. DO THE RECOVERY COACHES OR
POLICE OFFICERS TALK ABOUT IF THEY FEEL LIKE THIS PROGRAM
MIGHT HELP TO SORT OF EVEN OUT THAT STATISTIC WHERE PEOPLE ARE
ACTUALLY GETTING BETTER MORE OFTEN?>>WELL, THAT’S CERTAINLY THE
HOPE. THAT IS A CHALLENGE THAT THIS
PROGRAM IS FINDING OUT WHAT CAUSES WHAT. AND THIS IS SOMETHING I TALK
ABOUT IN ONE OF THE STORIES, IS THE CHALLENGE OF MEASURING WHAT
THE OUTCOME OF THIS KIND OF OUTREACH IS. BECAUSE OVERDOSES ARE GOING UP
BECAUSE OF THE PROBLEM, THAT DOESN’T MEAN, THEY MAY BE GOING
UP SLOWER IN PLACES WHERE THEY HAVE THIS KIND OF OUTREACH. SO THERE’S A LOT OF CONFOUNDING
FACTORS AND SOME OF THE OFFICERS WERE SAYING EVERYONE WANTS PROOF
AND THEY WANT NUMBERS, AND IT’S JUST VERY HARD TO ACTUALLY PROVE
THAT THIS IS HELPING. I DON’T THINK ANYONE IS
SUGGESTING THAT IT’S HURTING, SO THERE’S THAT PIECE. THERE IS A LIMITED AMOUNT OF
RESEARCH SO FAR, BECAUSE THIS IS A RELATIVELY NEW APPROACH, SO
THERE ARE ADDICTION RESEARCHERS WHO ARE SPECIFICALLY TRYING TO
SEE NOT JUST DOES POST-OVERDOSE OUTREACH WORK TO REDUCE FATAL
OVERDOSES, BUT HOW DOES IT WORK BEST. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS A
PROGRAM CAN DO A BETTER JOB THAN OTHERS, YOU KNOW, WHEN DO YOU
PUSH, FOR INSTANCE, HARD FOR SOMEONE TO GO INTO RECOVERY AND
WHEN DO YOU STEP BACK AND SAY OKAY I’M HERE WHEN YOU NEED ME. THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF NUANCES
THAT THEY’RE STILL LEARNING HOW TO PUT INTO PLACE.>>WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE
RATES THAT POLICE DEPARTMENTS ARE ACTUALLY USING THIS OR
INTERESTED IN USING THE PROGRAM?>>WELL, THERE’S 150 COMMUNITIES
ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS THAT USE SOME MODEL LIKE THIS. THE PROGRAM THAT I LOOKED AT
THAT SPECIFICALLY STARTED IN HAMPSHIRE COUNTY, CALLED THE
DART PROGRAM, IS NOW IN ABOUT 13 PLACES IN HAMPSHIRE COUNTY. IT’S JUST NOW EXPANDING TO ABOUT
10 PLACES IN HAMPDEN COUNTY, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF
SPRINGFIELD WHICH IS OF COURSE THE LARGEST CITY IN HAMPDEN
COUNTY. I’VE BEEN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
WHY THEY’RE NOT INTERESTED IN TAKING PART, WHAT THEY’RE DOING
INSTEAD.>>MORE DETAILS ON KAREN BROWN’S
LATEST SERIES IS ONLINE AT NEPR.NET.

No Comments

Leave a Reply