Community members touched by opiate addiction have searched for answers, support, and solutions to a multifaceted problem. After months of hard work, planning, and inter-community cooperation, the Rt. 212 Coalition, the Woodstock Police Department, and Family of Woodstock have come together with a new approach to the way Woodstock deals with its heroin problem.
On Monday, May 16 at Town Hall, the Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program — set to go into effect June 13 — was unveiled. The information session was kicked off with introductions by Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilbur and Woodstock Police Chief Clayton Keefe, among others. The floor was then turned over to cofounders of the Rte. 212 Coalition Shayna Micucci and Kasandra Quednau, who presented the Outreach Initiative Program, also known as the ANGEL Program, to a group of roughly twenty-five potential volunteers.
The new initiative revolves around viewing addiction as a disease, rather than a crime. Modeled after the Gloucester Initiative, which originated in Gloucester, Massachusetts’s Police Department, Woodstock’s Outreach Initiative will focus on getting opiate addicts to recovery programs. This is considered a PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative) Program. The process would begin when someone seeking help would walk into the police station voluntarily. Any drugs or paraphernalia on that person at the time would be confiscated and marked for destruction, but that person would not be charged. Then, a volunteer, or ‘Angel,’ would be called into the station to aid the participant with finding transportation to airports or train stations, providing them with resources that can be found within the community (shelters, hotlines, etc.), and affording them moral support during the process.
Those under the age of 18 are not eligible for this program, but Micucci and Quednau emphasized that those persons would not be turned away — resources for youth already exist in the community, and the Outreach Initiative could serve as a link to those services.
Lights of Hope
Those interested in becoming Angels are required to fill out an application and sign a pledge of confidentiality and a waiver. Volunteers must also attend a mandatory June 6 training session. Additionally, there are upcoming optional trainings which are free and open to the public. A training on how to administer Narcan, an opioid antidote, to someone suffering from an overdose will be held on Monday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. Those who attend will leave with a free Narcan kit. Family of Woodstock will also be offering a two-part mental health training on June 16 and June 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Lights of Hope, a vigil honoring those the community has lost to opiate use, as well as a fundraiser for the Outreach Initiative Program’s scholarship fund, which will be used to aid participants without insurance to pay for recovery programs and transportation, will be held on the Village Green on June 11 at 6:30 p.m.++