The Importance of the Right Person in the Right Place

The Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers recommendations for working in partnership with community stakeholders to increase public safety. Highlights include: engaging in multidisciplinary community team approaches, considering public trust when implementing strategies, and embracing a guardian mindset.

The Lowell, Massachusetts, Police Department (LPD) knew that they needed to strengthen their response to the growing opioid epidemic occurring in their area. In 2015, there were 56 opioid deaths, in 2016 there were 62 deaths, and there is an average of 2-3 non-fatal overdoses every day. Superintendent William Taylor was determined to create a program that would effectively get proper treatment for those addicted. The LPD approached the situation as a public health issue as well as a public safety issue. With that methodology in mind, the Community Opioid Outreach Program (CO-OP) was created.

Community Opioid Outreach Program

CO-OP is a partnership between Lowell House, Inc., an addiction treatment service organization, the Lowell Fire Department, and LPD.   The program team conducts follow up visits to overdose victims and families and connects them to the necessary services to help them fight the disease. The team also assists in the path to recovery by linking victims to residential and detox programs, counseling, and court assistance. The team consists of an outreach specialist from Lowell House, Inc., a police officer, and a firefighter who is EMS trained. The program started with no funding and part-time participation from the three team members. In its second year, CO-OP will add new personnel, new services, and an evaluation. With grant funds from the Smart Policing Initiative, the team will hire two part-time substance abuse personnel from the Health Department, a mental health clinician from the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell (MHA) and a recovery coach from the Lowell House, Inc. While Superintendent Taylor formed the CO-OP team, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan created Project C.A.R.E. (Child Assessment & Response Evaluation) to further increase the areas response to the opioid epidemic. Project C.A.R.E. began as a partnership between DA Ryan’s office, MHA and the LPD to provide a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week rapid response intervention program for children who witness a parent or loved one suffer an overdose. The goal is to help these children cope with trauma, build resiliency and decrease the likelihood that substance abuse will be transferred from one generation to the next. CO-OP and Project C.A.R.E. are planning to work together to ensure that children who witness overdoses or whose loved one have experienced an overdose get the services they need.

The team has a partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, to analyze the data of fatal and non-fatal overdoses to detect if there is a pattern related to demographics. The study is looking for gaps along the way in these individuals lives who have overdosed to see where there could have been prevention or education strategies applied. The analysis will inform a targeted prevention strategy, as well as evaluate how well both CO-OP and Project C.A.R.E. works.

The LPD saw there was an issue that needed to be addressed immediately. CO-OP was developed quickly as a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, collaborative solution to the opioid epidemic. The success of the program is due to the passion, understanding, community legitimacy and credibility of the program staff, especially that of the police officer team member, whose commitment to successful prevention of the problem helped get CO-OP off the ground.

Working with service providers, community non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and public safety the Community Opioid Outreach Program is collectively striving to greatly reduce and eliminate drug use and overdose deaths.

This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. Lowell is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.



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