Two Massachusetts Police Chiefs are changing public perceptions of law, saving lives, and tackling the opioid epidemic head-on in their communities by shifting their departments’ focus from ‘arrest and prosecution’ to ‘treatment and recovery’. Each has partnered with and embraced a progressive new solution-oriented approach to combating the growing epidemic; the Police Addiction And Recovery Initiative (PAARI).
As more drugs laced with deadly and addictive Fentanyl hit the streets, the number of opioid overdose deaths is skyrocketing. Chief Fred Ryan in Arlington, MA and Sergeant William Patterson in East Bridgewater, MA have each equipped and trained their police officers to administer the life-saving NARCAN® and to place people suffering from substance use disorders into treatment instead of arresting them. By re-casting the police as saviors rather than enforcers, they have been able not only to reshape community perception of the police, but to educate residents and police that opioid addiction is a disease not a crime. Chief Ryan and Sergeant Patterson and their officers are preventing overdose deaths and improving the quality of life in the communities they serve.
The film will follow a year in the lives of the officers in Arlington and East Bridgewater as they work to implement this paradigm shift in community policing. We will capture and chronicle the personal stories and struggles of the officers as they are charged with not only changing the way they do their jobs, but changing their own belief systems about substance use disorders. At the same time, the film will chronicle the journey of the people with the disorder who are trying to regain their lives and put their trust in a system that spent decades incarcerating them. The filmmakers have exclusive access to PAARI and their national partners, who since its inception in 2015 has been incorporated into to more than 500 Police departments in 32 states and growing.
Prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people in the United States in 2017. There are more overdose fatalities in a single year than the numbers of annual deaths from firearms violence, HIV infection or motor vehicle crashes combined.