Evaluation of a police-led addiction treatment referral program: the Gloucester Police Department's Angel Program
Schiff, Davida Marti
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BACKGROUND: The increasing rates of opioid use disorder and resulting overdose deaths are a public health emergency, yet only a fraction of individuals in need receive treatment. This thesis aims to describe the implementation of and participants’ experiences with a novel police-led addiction treatment referral program. METHODS: Follow-up telephone calls to participants in the Gloucester Police Department’s Angel Program from June 2015–May 2016. Open-ended survey questionnaires assessed individuals’ program participation experience, confirmed police-reported placement, and queried self-reported substance use and treatment outcomes. RESULTS: Surveys were completed by 198 of 367 individuals (54% response rate) who participated 214 times. Reasons for participation included: positive program publicity, belief that treatment placement would be obtained, poor prior treatment system experience, and external pressure to seek treatment. The majority of participants reported positive experiences citing the welcoming, nonjudgmental services. In 75% of encounters, participants confirmed they entered referral placement. Participants expressed frustration when they did not meet program entry requirements and had difficulty finding sustained treatment following initial program placement. CONCLUSIONS: A police-led referral program was feasible to implement and acceptable to participants. The program was effective in finding initial access to treatment, primarily through short-term detoxification services. However, the fragmented treatment system remains a barrier to long-term recovery.