MERIDEN – Three years into a partnership between the police department and Rushford both sides said they are seeing positive results.
The partnership began in 2019 with the Meriden Opioid Referral for Recovery grant, Jessica Matyka, director of the grant, said. Rushford clinicians work with officers to identify and help those suffering from addiction. The work includes Rushford clinicians riding with officers and treatment referrals. In the first three years of the program, 202 people were referred for treatment under the program, with 93% of the referrals due to the person experiencing an overdose.
“When (clinicians) are with the officers it makes it much easier to engage with people that we might not have been able to engage with before,” said Matyka who is also Rushford’s clinical director. “Help for one person may look very different than help for another person.”
The police department has a long history of community policing and the officers know their areas of the city well, Sgt. Cary Maikranz said. The officers are able to stop and speak with someone without making an arrest and having a clinician with them is invaluable, Maikranz added.
“You end up knowing the people in your community very well,” Maikranz said. “As someone in the community that is there to help and provide services or be that liaison in getting someone off the street.”
Matyka said the most common service people need is basic support, such as housing, food and reliable access to transportation. She said once a person has security in those areas, most end up in outpatient treatment.
Matyka and Maikranz attended the National Council for Mental Wellbeing conference in Washington, DC last month and spoke at a panel discussion about their experiences with the program. Maikranz said he was inundated with questions from people across the country about the police department side of the program.
Tremaine El-Amin, client experience officer for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, said the pandemic has worsened the effects of those with mental health and addiction issues, He called the program in Meriden “critical” to helping the addicted.
“I think it’s the stuff that the future is going to be made of,” El-Amin said. “This is the way forward. This is how we continue recovering from a forever changed world, how we continue being better neighbors and more engaged with each other. ”
El-Amin said the presentation by Matyka and Maikranz inspired those in attendance to take some of the ideas back to their own communities.
“When the community is healthy, we’re all healthy,” Matkya said.