More than 200 people filled the Gloucester House Restaurant Wednesday night to celebrate the second anniversary of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), a national program to help people struggling with opioids.
Richard Baum, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, received the PAARI Leadership Award. In a prepared statement, Baum praised the work of the Gloucester-based program.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated communities all across the country, from right here in Gloucester to Ohio, Arizona, and beyond,” Braum said in the statement released before the event. “Solving this problem requires new ways of addressing addiction, including bringing law enforcement and public health together.”
Law enforcement from around the country attended the ceremony marking the two year anniversary of a drug addiction treatment program that grew out of the Gloucester Police Department’s Angel Initiative.
The Angel program allows people addicted to opioids to turn in their drugs to the Gloucester Police Department and seek treatment without fear of being arrested. People are also paired with a “angel” to help them through the process.
The program laid the foundation for PAARI, which has been implemented by law enforcement across the country.
In its first two years, PAARI has helped more than 10,000 people through its partners across the country, according to the statement.
“This program is doing its job,” said John Rosenthal, co-founder and chairman of PAARI, in a phone interview after the event.
The program addresses opioid addiction as a disease, not a character flaw, he said.
“If you present yourself at a hospital with the disease of addiction, you are shamed, blamed, and kicked out onto the street to die,” Rosenthal said.
Four people who participated in the Angel program were saluted at the ceremony --Richard Naugle, Patrick Anderson, Benjamin Muse and Lillian Salah. Each received the Stephanie Jesi Memorial Scholarship to help them on their paths toward recovery.Jacob Geanous can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Geanous.