SWAMPSCOTT — The town’s first responders, including police and firefighters, are receiving opioid education and prevention training as the result of an anonymous $35,000 donation to the Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA in nearby Marblehead.
Pam Sullivan, a YMCA spokeswoman, said the donation was made to create the education and training program for Swampscott first responders.
The Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA is collaborating with the Swampscott Overdose Response Team, led by Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan, and Lahey Health Behavioral Services, which is providing the curriculum and training for the program.
“It is core to the Y’s mission to be a resource for the ever-changing needs of our community and to do all we can (to) convene organizations to strengthen our community and support children, individuals and families,” said Gerald MacKillop, executive director of the Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA, in a statement. “This collaboration is a great example of us joining forces and pooling our resources to tackle this national epidemic on a community level.”
Police provided statistics up to October 2017 for overdoses in Swampscott — in 2017 up until that timeframe, there were 13 overdoses, with two fatalities. Most overdoses came from heroin and other opioids. In 2016, there were 27 overdoses, with six fatalities. In 2015, there were 16 overdoses and three were fatal.
“Faced with the significant spike in the number of overdoses from opioids, heroin, fentanyl and now carfentanil, it’s become apparent that just enforcing laws alone isn’t sufficient to combat the growing epidemic,” said Madigan in a statement. “Police are positioned to recognize when a person or family are struggling with the problem of addiction and gaining an understanding of the issues surrounding addiction and knowing what resources are available to be able to direct people and families to help is critical.
“As first responders, we are working to change the way police view the problem which includes educating us about the dynamics of addiction and reducing the stigma associated with it. We are grateful to the Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA and Lahey Health Behavioral Services for facilitating this training, which is an important part of our overall collaborative strategy to reduce addiction and incidents of overdoses in our community.”
The three-part training program is meant to provide critical resources and education/training for first responders (police, fire and paramedics) in Swampscott so they have better tools, information and training as it relates to addiction and behavioral health. All training and materials are provided by Lahey, according to information from the Y.
The first workshop, which was Jan. 8 at the Swampscott Police Station, focused on Addiction 101, according to Swampscott Police Officer Brendan Reen. He said the training module was about learning about the brain as it relates to addiction, or the disease state of addiction. First responders learned more about the statistics of alcohol and opioid dependence and goals for treatment.
Reen said the second workshop, which will be Feb. 12, will focus on medication-assisted treatment, including what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves to treat opioid addiction disorders. The workshop will focus on first responders learning what kind of treatment can help curb someone’s addiction.
On March 12, Reen said the training module will shift gears and address the role of police and first responders in providing support to victims and their families as it relates to addiction. He said first responders need to become more educated on the correlation between mental health issues and addiction.
He said people suffering from mental health issues will sometimes self-prescribe with opioids, such as non-prescription narcotics, or abuse prescription drugs from a provider. Reen said first responders will learn how to better deal with a volatile situation that might stem from someone with a volatile or brittle mindset, making sure to reduce the risk of that person harming themselves or others.
First responders will be educated on how to best offer support to someone suffering from addiction and direct them to the right resources. Often, he said family members are struggling as well and find the system hard to navigate.
“If we can help get them through the system more efficiently, it may help with saving a life,” Reen said.
Reen said mental health seems to be interwoven into all the different types of calls police respond to — sometimes addiction and a mental health disorder are a dual diagnosis, or it may be a more complex situation.
“These are citizens, these are community members, and they need the help and services we are able to provide,” he said. “The goal is to deescalate the situation so they are able to get help. (I want to) echo our thanks to the YMCA and to Gerald (MacKillop) for bringing this to us and realizing what they are able to do is provide more education and training in an area that is always needed.”