NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – An average of two drug users overdose on heroin in Northampton every week. To fight this deadly epidemic, the Northampton Police Department’s dedicating three officers to the Drug Abuse Response Team, or “DART.”
The officers in the DART program start their shift by going through all of the police logs, if they see someone overdosed during the previous shift, they’ll try to track that person down and help them find treatment for their addiction.
Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper told 22News the program started about a month ago, and has already been successful. “The DART officers have already started connecting with some of these folks, I can think of one in particular who he connected with, and he’s now participating in a suboxone program. That’s a success story for us, someone who wouldn’t have been connected to these services is now connected.”
The officers work with several Hampshire County agencies that provide addiction treatment, including Mercy Behavioral Health Care, Clinical Support Options, Tapestry health, and Hampshire HOPE. Once an officer connects with an addict, they educate them on treatment options.
Liz Whynott of Tapestry Health’s Needle Exchange program told 22News if the addict’s still using heroin, the officers will connect that person with them. “They need to provide all opportunities to them, including a safe place to go if they’re not quite ready to stop using heroin. We offer a lot of services, including HIV and hepatitis C counseling, and we also have lot of referrals to substance use treatment.”
Chief Kasper said the program’s mainly for addicts at risk of overdosing. Anyone who’s committed a drug-crime will still be prosecuted.