On March 1, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter (pictured above right with Gándara Center Executive Director Henry Julio East-Trou) announced that the city’s Champion Plan, a police-assisted recovery program, will partner with nearly 500 police departments across the country in taking direct action against the disease of drug addiction in their communities.

At a press conference during a celebration of the Champion Plan’s third anniversary, Carpenter said the program is joining the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), a community policing movement to create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

Last year, the Champion Plan helped more than 700 people find treatment. The program brings individuals suffering from substance use disorder to the Brockton Police Department for help. From there, Gándara Center provides recovery coaches to support people entering the program. They are taken to the Champion Plan office, which serves as a safe haven as they wait to get into a treatment facility. Once a bed at a treatment center is available—usually within 30 minutes—Brewster Ambulance provides transportation to the treatment center. Recovery coaches are available for follow-up services and call clients at the treatment centers within 72 hours to check in.

“We are reducing barriers to treatment,” said Carpenter. “Lack of transportation is a barrier, and Brewster Ambulance has been an incredible partner.” Carpenter said that other barriers included mistrust of police by drug users and vice versa. “The biggest change I’ve seen is the change in perceptions—we’ve been able to convince folks to walk into the police station and ask for help,” he said. “And from police, it has been a change in approach—a change from, ‘We’re going to keep arresting you,’ to ‘You know what? The arresting part isn’t working. We’re going to get you some help.’”

Carpenter also thanked Gándara Center and Henry East-Trou. “In the first year of the Champion Plan’s existence Gándara Center was gracious enough to share its space with us because we didn’t have a space,” he said. The Champion Plan moved into its new office on the first floor of 142 Cresent Street two years ago. Gándara Center also operates its Stairway to Recovery support center, an Outpatient Clinic, and its Childhood Behavioral Health Initiative in the same building. “They continue to be a great supporting partner,” he said.

Jonathan Fasano, a guest speaker, said he entered the Champion Plan program during its first year, but he relapsed. “I wasn’t ready yet, but that didn’t stop the amazing team here from helping me,” he recalled. Social workers at the Champion plan continued to reach out to him, and he graduated from the program two years ago. “They stand by me even though I’m years past the program’s dates,” he said. “They still call and check on me because they truly care. They’re in my corner years later.”

Carpenter pointed out that Fasano’s experience shows that relapsing is sometimes a part of the recovery journey. “Some people come through the plan more than once,” he said. “People like Jonathan come back. We never give up on anybody. We are looking forward to sharing our Champion Plan experiences with other members as we support PAARI’s mission to expand access to treatment through true community policing.” He said that the Champion Plan is also expanding to include an “understanding” with judges at Brockton’s Adult Drug Court. People arrested on certain charges—excluding gun charges or restraining orders—can be released on their own recognizance if they take part in the Champion Plan.

PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade said that the Champion Plan has had some “remarkable accomplishments” in its first three years, and her organization is eager to partner with the program, as well as the Brockton Police, to continue building upon that foundation. “Their work has made a lasting impact on hundreds of lives,” she said. “I have no doubt that through this new partnership we’ll be able to replicate this successful model within other police departments across the Commonwealth and the country.”

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PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade

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Former Champion Plan client Jonathan Fasano