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Southbridge Police Department announces Community Assisted Recovery for Everyone (CARE)

SOUTHBRIDGE, MA – Southbridge Chief of Police Shane Woodson has announced the July 1 introduction of the Department’s Community Assisted Recovery for Everyone (CARE) program. Largely based on the Gloucester “ANGEL” program model, CARE is a community-based program designed to reduce the number of fatal and non-fatal opioid and heroin overdoses in Southbridge.

The program, in collaboration with Harrington HealthCare System’s Behavioral Health Department and community recovery coaches, will provide comprehensive assessments around the clock for individuals who present at the Southbridge Police Department requesting help accessing substance use disorder-related recovery services. The official rollout of the program follows a June 27 orientation at which a dozen volunteer recovery coaches from the local community were trained in the specifics of the program.

Beginning July 1, any individual who wants help getting into treatment for substance abuse disorder-related addiction issues will be welcomed by the Southbridge Police Department staff and guided through a process that will help connect them to treatment services. “In order to be accepted in the CARE program, individuals must meet a few basic criteria,” Chief Woodson said. ”For example, the individual cannot have any outstanding warrants for their arrest, they cannot exhibit violent behaviors and they may not be under the influence of drugs when they come in.”

As soon as an individual enters the police station seeking help, they will be greeted and assessed by the sergeant on duty who will then send out a group text message to a list of volunteer recovery coaches. The first coach to respond will come to the station and work with the individual to complete an intake form and contact a clinician from the Harrington HealthCare behavioral health team.

Harrington’s assessment services will play an instrumental role in the CARE program. The hospital’s master’s level emergency services clinicians will provide comprehensive assessments around the clock for the individuals who present requesting substance use disorder related recovery services. Interventions will include crisis intervention, solution-focused counseling, and motivational interviewing. Clinicians will help to facilitate admissions to inpatient detox, dual diagnosis and/or referrals to outpatient recovery services. Those determined to be appropriate for an outpatient level of care will be linked to a patient navigator who will assist the individual in scheduling and keeping outpatient appointments for recovery services. The navigator will also provide ongoing supportive counseling, transportation assistance, benefit coordination and follow up phone calls to help ensure the most success possible in the person’s recovery journey.

Harrington HealthCare is in the process of constructing a 16-bed inpatient dual diagnosis unit at its Webster campus to treat patients with substance abuse and mental health issues. According to Greg Mirhej, Harrington’s executive director of behavioral health, the new unit will greatly expand the hospital’s ability to treat patients in an environment that is most conducive to their recovery. The facility will be the first inpatient unit in central and western Massachusetts to offer an inpatient psychiatric unit with a specialty track for patients suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse.

Chief Woodson said CARE had its origins in a town hall educational forum on alcohol and substance abuse hosted by Southbridge Councilors Albert D. Vecchia, Jr., Chair of the Protection of Persons and Property Subcommittee and attended by all town councilors and Town Manager Ron SanAngelo last November. Participants included Chief Woodson, representatives from Governor Baker’s office and the Attorney General’s office, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr., Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Fire Chief Mark DiFronzo, Harrington Hospital Executive Director of Behavioral Health Greg Mirhej, Dr. Richard Listerud,  medical director of Harrington’s substance abuse program and Spectrum House Program Director Mark Orris. The program also included a presentation by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, who spoke about that community’s “ANGEL” program, a revolutionary policing program aimed at getting addicts the help they need, instead of putting them in handcuffs.

“I have to admit, I was not easily convinced that this was the right approach,” said Chief Woodson. “I’ve always been a ‘tough on crime’ kind of guy, but clearly that approach isn’t working and we needed to explore alternative methods for dealing with this opioid crisis.” After the forum, Chief Woodson committed to creating a modified version of the Gloucester program, one that takes into account the unique conditions that exist in Southbridge.

 “The single most important component for me was Harrington Hospital’s behavioral health program,” he said. “Harrington President and CEO Ed Moore stepped up to the plate and offered the hospital’s resources to us. For many months now, we’ve been meeting with Harrington’s behavioral health professionals to design a program that offers optimal hope for recovery for individuals who come to the police station looking for treatment.” Chief Woodson added that he has been incredibly encouraged by his own staff’s response to being actively engaged with implementing the CARE program. “I’m proud to say that the men and women of the Southbridge Police Department are all 100% on board with this program,” he said, “and so many other members of the Southbridge community have been supportive of our efforts.”

Chief Woodson also introduced the Southbridge Police Department’s new narcotics detecting dog, “Sophia Harrington,” a Belgian Malinois trained by Indiana-based Vohne Liche Kennels which specializes in  single purpose police dog training. “Sofia Harrington” was purchased with major donations from Harrington HealthCare System and Hyde Manufacturing with additional donations from Casella Waste Management, Big Bunny Supermarket and Globe Village Realty will report for active duty mid-summer after certification by the North American Police Workdog Association and the U.S. Police Canine Association.