2018-10-11 / Front Page

Deneault receives opioid training


DENEAULT DENEAULT Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to launch a statewide strategy to combat the epidemic of opioid overdoses, and Jamestown’s second-in-command had a front-row seat.

Lt. Angela Deneault was among 80 law enforcement officers to join clinicians and recovery coaches during a daylong training program last week at Roger Williams University. Dubbed the Heroin-Opioid Prevention Effort, or HOPE for short, Deneault said the lessons on prevention and recovery will allow authorities to work together across municipal borders.

“Rhode Island’s size and collaborative law enforcement community allows for the deployment of local personnel across jurisdictions,” she said.

Deneault, a 24-year veteran of the force, said the goal of the proactive outreach strategy is to identify Rhode Islanders at risk of overdosing, then encouraging them to be assessed and treated. The HOPE initiative, she said, was modeled after successful programs across the country. Those efforts, however, were launched by single jurisdictions; this initiative reaches from Woonsocket to Westerly.

“We are not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem,” Deneault said. “We are hopeful that we can reach people in a way that helps them before they become yet another statistic.”

While the opioid epidemic is often tied to urban cities, Deneault said rural communities like Jamestown are not immune to the impact.

“Not only have we responded to more opioid overdoses in Jamestown, but we have also had the unfortunate task of notifying Jamestown families that they lost a loved one to overdose,” she said.

The department, like other police forces throughout the state, has taken steps to prepare officers of the epidemic, training them to recognize and respond to an overdose. In 2015, each member of the department was issued and trained in the use of naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses. The police station also employs a drop box where community members can anonymously dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs.

“We also offer drug test kits that anyone can pick up at the front desk, no questions asked,” she said.

While Jamestown officers already have been schooled in the public safety aspects of opioid addiction, Deneault said the HOPE training was uniquely informative. They were taught to encourage addicts from getting assistance before it was too late.

“We learned the science behind addiction,” she said.

Speakers at the event included Ann Assumpico, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. “Instead of waiting for the next overdose to happen, we will be out there helping people get the treatment they need to save their lives,” she said.

The head of the state Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott, also addressed the conference. “Addiction and substance use are diseases that must be tackled and treated on all fronts,” she said. “This innovative partnership provides one more opportunity to save lives by bridging the systems we have created to address the overdose epidemic.”

Deneault, however, said the most inspirational speaker of the day was Chris Herren, a former NBA player who struggled with drug addiction for most of his basketball career. The former Boston Celtics guard founded the Herren Project in 2011 to navigate addicts down the road to recovery.

“He told his brutally honest and heartbreaking story of addiction, loss and recovery,” Deneault said. “He also praised those of us in law enforcement who are willing to work outside of our normal paradigm to network with substance abuse counselors in this statewide prevention effort.”

According to Deneault, the HOPE initiative will rely on referrals from friends and family members of addicts. The program also will employ feedback from first responders who, during their normal course of duty, identify Rhode Islanders in need of intervention.

“A website will be available for people to refer others they feel are at risk,” she said. “The HOPE team will then visit with the person to talk to them and offer services they need to find and sustain life-saving treatment.”

According to Prevent Overdose R.I., one in four teenagers report taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. Moreover, nearly half of those Rhode Island teens obtained the prescription drugs from their family’s medicine cabinet. Deneault said prevention and education are key factors in deterring teens from becoming overdose victims.

“Do your part to keep prescription drugs out of their hands,” she said. “We need to help our children develop the skills that will help them avoid the social pitfalls that lead to drug use.”

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