Police partner with Gosnold to help addicts
New treatment options coming to the Cape
YARMOUTH — In an effort to bring treatment to overdose victims, Yarmouth police and Gosnold recovery coaches plan to conduct follow-up visits to those who nearly lost their lives to drugs.
A new, experimental partnership starting as soon as next week will bring together the Yarmouth police and counselors from Gosnold on Cape Cod, a treatment organization, who will visit the homes of recent drug overdose victims.
“It’s all about finding ways to bring treatment services to people rather than waiting until they come to us,” said Raymond Tamasi, president and chief executive officer of Gosnold, a nonprofit organization based in Falmouth.
Yarmouth’s Proactive Anti-Crime Unit, made up of officers on special assignment, has routinely been making these home visits within a few days of an overdose, Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos said.
But the police could offer help only through the court system. This process, known as “sectioning” because it’s allowed under Section 35 of Massachusetts laws, places a drug addict before a judge, who must decide if the person is an imminent threat to himself or others. If deemed a threat, the person can be sentenced into residential substance abuse treatment. There is a high legal standard of proof necessary to take away someone’s freedom, however, so the judge often lets the person go, Xiarhos said.
“We’ve had someone overdose seven times and we’ve been automatically sectioning him,” Xiarhos said. But even that person may seem stable before the judge and court evaluator on a particular day and so goes free, Xiarhos said.
Gosnold’s eight recovery coaches are trained and experienced in convincing people to seek treatment and in assisting family members, Tamasi said.
They can offer a list of services, starting with family support groups, counseling, individual coaching and even interventions.
An intervention is when loved ones receive guidance from an interventionist to confront the user to get him or her into treatment.
Gosnold charges about $1,500 for the full intervention service, Tamasi said. But people can get it for less if there’s a financial need, he added.
With Gosnold’s help, people who have overdosed will be able to choose from a number of options, Xiarhos said.
“Gosnold knows how to talk them through all of that,” Xiarhos said.
Overdoses, mostly involving heroin, have sharply increased since Thanksgiving in several Cape towns, including Yarmouth. There were 56 heroin overdoses in 2014 in Yarmouth alone, resulting in five deaths, Xiarhos said.
Heroin overdoses nationally have increased 39 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As opiate addiction continues to cause deaths and near-deaths, hospitals and police are bringing in substance abuse counselors.
Massachusetts General Hospital recently began hiring recovery coaches to work intensely with addicts outside of a treatment center, according to Patrick Cronin, program coordinator of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, a state-funded nonprofit.