BRICK – Why does someone start abusing drugs? Was it because they were prescribed a prescription painkiller after an injury? Or did they just make bad choices? Are they trying to kick the habit of addiction? If they are, what are the obstacles to stopping?
These questions and more will be asked of anyone who has been revived by Narcan by the Brick EMS or by the Brick police in a new program called “Because We Care.”
Police Chief James Riccio came up with the idea after “constantly hearing about people who are addicted, and who are having trouble getting help,” he said in a recent phone interview.
“We want to know if there’s more to it than having no insurance and those kinds of problems,” he said. “Have they been turned away by insurance? Have they themselves been unable to finish a treatment program?”
Working in a partnership with the Ocean County Health Department, the Brick Police Department is gathering a year of data after interviewing overdose victims.
The database is just getting started, Riccio explained. At least one officer from the Community Policing Division and one person from the Ocean County Health Department conduct the interviews.
“If they’re willing to talk to us, we interview anyone who has overdosed who is still alive after they get out of the hospital or they get out of treatment,” Chief Riccio explained. “If they passed away, we’ll try to talk to the family,” he added. So far, they have conducted about 20 interviews over the last three months, he said.
The police chief said that after the data is collected they want to see if there is a common denominator that could result in a change in how to approach addiction.
Asked if early data suggests any common denominators, Riccio said that many of the addicts are reporting that there was not enough drug awareness in the schools.
“We’ve mostly interviewed people in their 20s and 30s who have been out of school for a while,” he said. “We’ve started doing more [drug awareness programs] since they have been in school.”
When Riccio took over the department three years ago, the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was being presented to elementary school students. New anti-drug programs are now in place at the middle schools (Lead and Seed) and at the high school (Not Even Once) levels.
“And we are educating parents as well,” Chief Riccio said. “The biggest thing is education, so we’ll see.”
The overdose rate was high in 2016, which was followed by dramatic drops over the last three years. This year and last year are pretty flat, the chief said, with two less overdoses this year than last year at the same time.
On September 18, the Brick Police Department will be getting onboard with a program that has been used by other police departments called Neighbors App.
It is a voluntary program for residents who have a Ring or Nest-type camera system installed in their homes.
Residents could sign up with their providers to say they would like to be part of the program that shares recorded camera footage with the police when needed.
“Say there were car burglaries at 2 or 3 a.m. in a certain geographic area,” Chief Riccio explained. “We could go on the app and see which homes have signed up to be part of this program, and we could look at the footage right from the police station.”
If you are interested in volunteering for Neighbors App, call Brick Police Sergeant James Kelly at 732 262-1104