Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2016
Source: Arlington Advocate, The (MA)
Copyright: 2016 The Arlington Advocate
Author: James Sanna


ARLINGTON - Arlington's chief of police wasn't in his office on 
Wednesday, June 15. Instead, he was in Washington D.C.

Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan was testifying before the Senate 
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at a hearing 
on alternative approaches to combating the opioid addiction crisis. 
He was speaking as a representative of the Police-Assisted Addiction 
Recovery Initiative (PAARI), sharing his experiences fighting heroin 
and other drugs in Arlington with an approach emphasizing getting 
opioid users into treatment.

The roundtable hearing, billed by committee chairman Senator Ron 
Johnson (R-WI) as a "very honest, frank discussion" of the problems 
in the country's approach to fighting illegal drugs, featured Ryan 
alongside Canadian physician and drug addiction expert Dr. Scott 
MacDonald, head of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann and David 
Murray, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank.

The Senate committee is preparing a report on America's drug policy 
and asked all four to contribute their insights.

"We as law enforcement cannot solve this problem on our own and we 
should stop telling America that with more police resources that we 
can," Ryan said in his prepared testimony, adding that in his view, 
arresting low-end users made it harder for to address drug users' addiction.

"Every [drug] dealer we arrest and take off the streets is quickly 
replaced by one or more rivals who sometimes compete for the new 
territory by cutting prices, increasing supply or marketing new and 
more dangerous products; such as Fentanyl laced heroin, often making 
the situation worse than it already was," he said.

During the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Ryan told 
senators that the recent arrest of a drug dealer offered an example 
of Arlington's approach, which uses community meetings and in-person 
outreach by the APD's embedded mental health clinician to both 
encourage drug users to seek treatment and to help them access 
treatment in partnership with addiction counselors.

"I asked [my officers] two very simple questions: tomorrow when we 
take this major supplier out of the loop, do we know who his 
customers are? Next, what are we doing tomorrow to get them into 
treatment about the public health crisis we're unwittingly creating 
in our community? Any tactical plan in my jurisdiction comes with a 
parallel social service plan," Ryan said.

Ryan cautioned committee members to look beyond the criminal justice 
system as they looked for solutions to the opioid crisis.

"When you push the button for the criminal justice system it's 
incredibly hard and complex and difficult to reverse and when you 
take someone suffering from a substance-abuse disorder and put them 
in a complex criminal justice system it creates even more challenges," he said.

Ryan also urged committee members to look at ways to make 
medication-based addiction treatments, like the addiction 
relapse-prevention drug Vivitrol, cheaper and more available.

MacDonald, Murray, and Nadelmann also urged committee members to look 
into a wide range of other interventions, from more researchers to 
study the opioid epidemic to better efforts to inform youth about the 
harmful effects of opioid addiction.

"There's not any one silver bullet. There are a lot of silver bbs and 
some are bigger than others," said Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE). 
"Part of our challenge is to figure out what the federal 
responsibility is and how do we use federal actions?"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom