Rising Overdose Rates

New RI Program will Divert Individuals with Substance Use Disorders from Incarceration and into Treatment

Training, education and implementation efforts provided by the Opioid Response Network (ORN) has helped realize a new program in Woonsocket, RI. This program will divert individuals with an opioid or other substance use disorder who have been arrested away from jail and into treatment and recovery support services. An estimated 70 to 100 people arrested every year could qualify to participate in this program, which was recently awarded the funding needed to get it off the ground.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline have announced a three-year $819,109 U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance grant for the Woonsocket Police Department (WPD). Working with the non-profit Community Care Alliance, this will fund the Law Enforcement Assisted Deflection, Engagement, and Retention (LEADER) in Treatment program. ORN, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funded initiative, will continue providing WPD with education and training support as needed.

LEADER in Treatment was championed by RI Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers who was inspired by a similar, successful initiative in Portugal.

ORN began collaborating with Judge Rodgers following an ORN training with 45 judges from across the U.S. on the medical aspects of substance use disorders. This was held at the The National Judicial College and included presentations from addiction psychiatrists from the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and champion judges. Participating judicial officers were charged with returning home to support local initiatives with ongoing, no cost education and training support from ORN. LEADER in Treatment is one example. A free justice system resource guide and online course are also a result of the training.

"On behalf of the various partners who have developed LEADER in Treatment, we are excited to implement this unique program that places individuals who are accused of certain non-violent offenses and who may be struggling with a substance use disorder and/or co-occurring disorder in a health-centered setting rather than the criminal justice setting," said Judge Rodgers in a release.

"Giving law enforcement the ability to offer a person the chance to get into a treatment program instead of getting a criminal arrest record will hopefully be the first step in a new approach in dealing with this public health crisis," said Chief Thomas F. Oates III of the WPD in the same release.

"It was remarkable to witness and support the collaborative effort and help evolve the program from concept to reality. This work will help people in Woonsocket and the surrounding area get the treatment they need and has the potential to serve as a national model," said Tonya Tavares, MS, CCRP, Assistant Project Director, Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies, Brown University School of Public Health and ORN Technology Transfer Specialist.

Tavares worked with Judge Rodgers and collaboratively with ORN consultants to provide the implementation support. The consultants were Tara Kunkel, MSW, Executive Director, Rulo Strategies and Aimee Campbell, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatric Social Work, Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Any person, agency, organization or entity can request training and education support from ORN at no cost education to enhance, expand and support their own efforts addressing the opioid crisis, stimulant use disorders and all substance use disorders. Requests can be made easily at OpioidResponseNetwork.org.

About the Opioid Response Network

The Opioid Response Network (ORN) was established through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funding awarded to the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry working collaboratively with the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network, at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Columbia University Division on Substance Use Disorders and 40 national organizations. ORN provides education and training in the prevention, treatment and recovery of opioid and stimulant use disorders at the local level and at no cost.

For more information visit OpioidResponseNetwork.org
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