Spectrum's innovative work with the 'ANGEL Program' was recognized in a publication released in honor of President Obama's proclamation of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, observed for the first time from September 19 – 24, by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Office of Community Policing Services (COPS Office).The publication, Building Successful Partnerships between Law Enforcement and Public Health Agencies to Address Opioid Use, documents discussions from the April 2016 conference hosted by PERF, the COPS Office, and the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). It highlights real-world strategies for promoting collaborations between the public health and public safety sectors and highlights many promising partnerships across the country.
Spectrum Health Systems became involved with the ANGEL Program through the Gloucester Police Department. The program began on June 1, 2015, and offers people seeking help for an opioid addiction resources for treatment services through the Gloucester Police Department. Those requesting help through the program are not charged with a criminal offense even if they are in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Under this model, the police department acts as a direct entry point to the treatment process. The Gloucester Police Department now partners with 250 treatment providers in 28 states, including 35 facilities in Massachusetts. Spectrum Health Systems works with nearly half of Gloucester's ANGEL Program participants.
"We work very closely with the Gloucester Police Department. I will sometimes get calls from the police station at 3:00 in the morning, asking if we have space available to help someone," says Donna Pellegrino, vice president at Spectrum Health Systems. "We make sure to get that person into the appropriate level of care, whether it is detox, residential treatment or outpatient services."
"The ANGEL Program is all about saying to people struggling with addiction, 'Here is a point person. Here is someone you can call," Pellegrino continues. "It's about personal, direct relationships between people in the police department and people in the community. It's about relationships between public safety, local government, and treatment providers. And it's about changing the conversation about how we deal with addiction."
The program has facilitated treatment for more than 450 people from around the country, approximately 40 percent of whom were from the Gloucester area. All were placed into treatment. The Gloucester Police Department receives an average of four to five people per week. The program has also reduced overdose deaths from five during the first six months of 2015 to one overdose death during the whole first year of the ANGEL Program.
Spectrum Health Systems strongly believes in the benefits of working together with law enforcement, and is proud to not only see this program continue to grow, but to also help start other new partnerships – such as our recent work with the Southbridge Police Department's CARE program.