Collaboration between law enforcement and peer coaches to provide post-overdose services grounded in harm reduction
The Drug Addiction and Recovery Team (DART), started through the countywide community coalition Hampshire Hope, works from the premise that a nonfatal overdose is a vital point of intervention to prevent subsequent overdose death. DART is an innovative program where a team comprised of police officers, recovery coaches, and harm reduction specialists follows up with people after a nonfatal overdose, substance-related incident, or referral. It was first piloted by the Northampton Police Department in 2016 and has since expanded to all of Hampshire County.
Rooted in harm reduction, a team member makes contact with an individual who has overdosed within 24-48 hours to assess their needs, with the primary goal to form connections. A person may not be ready to make a treatment attempt, so DART will focus on a safety plan which includes providing overdose education, distributing naloxone, and meeting basic needs. Often, a police officer is a point person, who will then connect the person to a recovery coach and a harm reductionist from Tapestry, a comprehensive harm reduction organization with several sites throughout Western Massachusetts. The people sent to respond are individually tailored depending on what is known about the person, including demographics. There is also a DART response to people who have committed crimes due to opioid use disorder (OUD), those that self-refer through a phone/text line, and those referred from outside agencies.
Ambulance data has proven to be months behind, so reports from first responders, such as police, are vital for timely response. There is also a data share agreement with four area hospitals so that the same post-overdose response can be initiated in a hospital setting. In addition to post-overdose response, DART also distributes naloxone to individuals, businesses, libraries, and community groups as well as supports family members with a focus on addiction education, self-care, connecting to resources, and bereavement support.
Another innovative element of DART is the customized Case Management System (CMS). The CMS, supported by a recent grant from SAMHSA, is a cutting-edge technology that will evaluate program effectiveness, better understand successful trajectories of individuals in the program, provide insight into the drivers of the opioid crisis in Hampshire County, and identify assets and gaps in the system. In addition, the CMS can provide a solution to the data challenges of a timely response to an overdose.