Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI)

A law enforcement initiative, begun in Gloucester, MA and now expanded nationwide, that aims to make police departments a point of entry for treatment, providing early intervention and treatment on demand for those with substance use disorders

This initiative builds from Gloucester’s Angel program, bringing together law enforcement to intervene in the addiction process. PAARI is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the Gloucester Police on their addiction initiative, to aid other police departments to implement similar programs, and to foster a dialogue around the unique opportunity for police departments to take direct action against the disease of drug addiction in their communities.  

The Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI) provides support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.  Recognizing that law enforcement has a front row seat to the opioid crisis and are in a unique position to prevent overdose deaths, in June 2015 the Gloucester Police Department launched the Angel Program, which created a simple, stigma-free entry point to treatment on demand and reframed addiction as a disease, not a crime. PAARI was founded as a nonprofit alongside the Angel Program to help law enforcement agencies create non-arrest programs that prevent and reduce overdose deaths and expand access to treatment and recovery.

Now a national network of more than 400 police departments in 32 states, PAARI primarily supports non-arrest, or early diversion, program models that reach people before they enter the criminal justice system. Programs are customized based on the community and can utilize multiple law enforcement entry points to treatment, including self-referrals to the station and risk or incident-based outreach. Cross-sector collaboration and partnerships are vital to these programs and they are often supported by clinicians, social workers, recovery coaches, and/or trained volunteers. 

PAARI in Massachusetts has partnered with other organizations to distribute fentanyl test strips. Preliminary evaluation shows for every kit distributed, there was approximately 1 health or support service or referral provided.

The high direct-referral rate of 94.5% exceeds those reported for hospital-based initiatives.

Continuum of Care
Harm Reduction
Type of Evidence
Response Approach
Crisis intervention
Early Intervention
Recovery coaching
Peer-reviewed Article

Evidence of Program Effectiveness

“ 376 people sought help in the first year of this program. The high direct-referral rate of 94.5% exceeds those reported for hospital-based initiatives that are designed to provide immediate access to detoxification and treatment. Factors that enabled referrals included the motivation of participants to enter treatment, as evidenced by their coming to the police station; the additional support provided by volunteers; the fact that officers searched for placements 24 hours a day; the relationship the police established with a local treatment center in which the majority of participants were placed; the provision of transportation; and the state-mandated insurance in Massachusetts, which covers drug detoxification.”  (Schiff et al., 2016

“Surveys were completed by 198 of 367 individuals (54% response rate) who participated 214 times. Reasons for participation included: the program was a highly-visible entry point to the treatment system, belief that placement would be obtained, poor prior treatment system experiences, and external pressure to seek treatment. Most participants reported positive experiences citing the welcoming, non-judgmental services. In 75% (160/214) of the encounters, entry into referral placement was confirmed. Participants expressed frustration when they did not meet program entry requirements and had difficulty finding sustained treatment following initial program placement. At a mean follow-up time of 6.7months, 37% of participants reported abstinence since participation, with no differences between participants who entered referral placement versus those who did not.”  (Schiff et al., 2017)  

Fentanyl test strip (FTS) initiative: "For every kit distributed, there was approximately 1 health or support service or referral provided; 320 kits were distributed. Key themes from interviews were conceptualizing FTS as a tool, collaborations, and adaptations. Police departments that partnered with community programs amplified project reach. FTS distribution is a simple yet powerful tool that community providers and police can offer alongside linkage to care services and engagement with people who use drugs and their family and friends." (Olson et al., 2022)