A new program spearheaded by the Worcester Police Department (WPD) and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) will now give those struggling with addiction who get caught buying narcotics a choice: seek help for addiction or face prosecution.

The Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative program brings an innovative approach to the opioid crisis. By allowing low-level drug offenders to seek treatment, the Bay State is shifting the paradigm from treating addiction as a criminal offense to recognizing the epidemic as a behavioral health disorder. More than 400 lives have been saved by first responders’ use of the overdose reversal drug known as Narcan, according to WPD Chief Steven Sargent. But that’s only the first step in addressing this public health crisis. According to WPD, 150 people are arrested for buying narcotics on the street each year.

A $99,000 grant was recently awarded to the WPD, who is partnering with Spectrum Health Systems. Together, both entities will help individuals access the treatment they so desperately need. Spectrum has been a long-time partner with the WPD and other police departments across Massachusetts in combatting the opioid crisis. This continued partnership is essential to the program’s success.

According to Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, the intended outcome of the program is that less people will buy drugs from dealers and drug rings, and larceny will go down as a result. Additionally, the program will free up time for police to identify and arrest dealers and drug cartels, rather than focusing on the end-user.

Progress has been made in 2017, as the number of overdoses due to opioids has dropped five percent compared to the same time period one year ago, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Spectrum Health Systems is a proud partner of this initiative, and honored to have been selected as the provider of addiction treatment services for the Buyer Diversion Alternative program. For more information about Spectrum’s role in the program, check out our CEO’s interview with MassLive.

If you or someone you love needs help for an addiction, please call Spectrum Health Systems at (800) 366-7732 for inpatient services or (800) 464-9555 extension 1161 for outpatient services.

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About Spectrum Health Systems:
Based in Worcester, Mass. and founded in 1969, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. is a private, nonprofit substance abuse and mental health treatment provider. Spectrum offers the largest and most complete continuum of addiction treatment in New England -- including inpatient detoxification, residential rehabilitation, outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment and peer recovery support. Its subsidiary, The New England Recovery Center provides onsite detoxification and inpatient addiction treatment exclusively for commercially insured and private pay clients. For more information, please visit www.spectrumhealthsystems.org or www.newenglandrecoverycenter.org.