Family and Children’s Services Partners with Police to Implement the DART Program

Left to right:
Bel Air Police Chief Charles Moore, Jennifer Redding, Deputy Chief of Behavioral Health Services, Family and Children’s Services, D/CPL Matthew Gullion, Bel Air Police Department, and Joe Ryan, Director, The Office of Drug Control Policy

(Bel Air, Md)  In an attempt to break the cycle of addiction, Family and Children’s Services has partnered with the Bel Air Police Department, the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy, and other local agencies to form the Bel Air Drug Abatement Response Team (DART).

DART, implemented in January 2018, and is completing its first year.  DART’s conceptualization was based on the increasing number of opioid overdoses in Harford County, more specifically the alarming number of overdoses, and repeat overdoses, in the Town of Bel Air.

Prior to the DART program, Bel Air police officers and medical providers would often respond and treat the same opioid overdose victims two or three times in the same week.   Bel Air Police Chief, Charles Moore recognized that it was impossible to “arrest your way out of this problem” and partnerships with behavioral health experts were necessary to affect change, and so DART was born. According to Chief Moore, “while the results of the DART program this year are encouraging, we must not forget those who have died or those who are still struggling from addiction, nor should we forget their families. I’m hopeful that the program will provide a solution and recovery for those who are suffering so much. We will continue to offer the program to those who have overdosed in the Town of Bel Air and to their families.  Evaluation of the program’s success will be on-going.”  Currently, the number of heroin overdoses in the Town of Bel Air for 2018 has decreased by 37 % when compared to 2017.  Sadly, there was an increase in the number of overdose fatalities from five in 2017 to nine in 2018 in the Town of Bel Air.

The DART program involves collaboration between the police department and other behavioral health organizations and experts (Family and Children Services, Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy, Addiction Connections Resources, and others) to develop a recovery solution.  Another crucial piece of the DART program involves the use of Peer Recovery Specialists, some of whom are recovering from addiction, to motivate overdose survivors (and their families) to engage in treatment soon after their overdose, typically within 48 hours.

Once a victim has accepted the outreach for treatment, which is initiated by law enforcement, the overdose survivor and/or their family are quickly linked with treatment resources. These resources include behavioral health therapy and psychiatric services, if needed. Once a positive DART referral has occurred there is a “warm hand-off” from law enforcement to Family and Children’s Services or other substance use treatment partners. This seamless and uninterrupted referral reduces confusion for the survivor/and or family member as to the treatment plan and also reduces the likelihood of a repeat overdose.

Since its implementation, there have been no repeat overdoses of those who have participated with the DART program.  D/CPL Matthew Gullion says “we are cultivating opportunities for testimonies of hope and recovery. DART addresses the crisis of addiction and the trauma of overdoses. This immediate multi-organizational response is educating, preventing, and rescuing those impacted by addiction.”

Earlier this month at the National Opioid Crisis Summit at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, stressed the importance of partnerships in slowing, and eventually stopping the opioid epidemic. DART is an example of positive results being achieved as a result of partnerships.

DART empowers participants to become reenergized, regain confidence and self-respect while navigating the turbulent road to recovery. In addition, individuals have been able to resolve past trauma that is often associated with the root cause of addiction.

Family and Children’s Services (FCS) is a private, not for profit organization serving Central Maryland for the past 169 years. FCS is an Outpatient Mental Health Center providing behavioral health and case management services in Harford, Carroll, and Howard Counties, as well as Baltimore City. FCS strives to transform the lives of children and adults by providing opportunities to build self-confidence, resilience, and hope. FCS is a leading expert in providing trauma-informed care in the communities it serves, with therapists trained in evidence-based practices to best assist those who have experienced trauma.

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