By Joshua Solomon
If the early data pans out, Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, the catchall of the Opioid Task Force, will have seen the most deaths attributed to the opioid crisis in any year. While communities continue to struggle with the increased presence of fentanyl, the task force is looking for other ways to combat the epidemic.
That’s one of the main reasons the Opioid Task Force welcomed a panel of law enforcement officials to the Franklin County Justice Center Monday for a discussion on public safety, behavioral health and community response to drug overdoses. About 70 attended Monday.
The majority of the conversation revolved around policing reform models, specifically the one that has been increasingly implemented across Hampshire County. Northampton Police presented how it works getting people struggling with addiction into treatment that is relevant to them individually, instead of just immediately sending them to the hospital or trying to figure out where the person possibly got their heroin.
“You’ll never hear out of my mouth, ‘Where did you buy that from?’” Northampton Police Officer Adam Van Buskirk said. “That’s not why I’m here to talk to you.”
Van Buskirk has been leading the way for Northampton’s police force and departments across Hampshire County in the last two years as they build up their Drug Addiction & Recovery Teams. The “DART” teams are made up of police officers, and are often sent out to calls to help get people the services they need — and possibly, stop the sometimes inevitable cycle of jail to drugs to jail and, instead, find recovery.