Cops want to hear, learn from people who’ve survived ODs
BRICK — Police in this Ocean County town are following up with those who've survived drug overdoses — to find out more about their drug-use history, the obstacles they may have faced during interactions with police or the healthcare system, and whether they feel they were properly educated on drug prevention as a kid.
Because We Care, a program run out of the police department's Community Policing Unit, has resulted in at least 40 interviews since its launch a year and a half ago.
Chief Jim Riccio said the department was "looking for more answers" that can be passed on to experts for meaningful change.
"The hope is that this thing gets legs and starts taking off with other departments," Riccio told New Jersey 101.5. "I would like to make this a countywide or a statewide initiative and then gather all of that information."
In the meantime, police are using the findings from an always-evolving questionnaire to pick up on trends and common struggles cited by those who've overdosed and survived.
Police also interview members of survivors' families.
According to Sgt. Jim Kelly, of the Community Policing Unit, all or nearly all of the responses so far have suggested that overdose victims were treated well by police when they arrived on the scene. Kelly said the department was opening the door for criticism, but has been told that are officers are "compassionate and helpful."
A high percentage of respondents, though, have said there should be more drug prevention and awareness programs in school. The police department went to local education officials with this finding and have since made plans to launch a program, created by the county health department, for high school freshmen in the town.
"Unfortunately, we never got the chance to do it because of COVID," Kelly said.
Also stymied by the pandemic was the department's response to survivors' reluctance to seek treatment due to the stigma involved with substance abuse. A kick-off event for "Share Your Story" hasn't yet happened, Kelly said.
County and federal agencies were consulted by Brick police as they crafted a questionnaire in 2019. As interviews began, police learned more about the ordering of questions, which questions may need to be tweaked, and which questions should be added.
Through the end of October, Brick has seen more than 120 overdoses this year, and about a dozen resulted in death, Kelly said.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.