City police share heroin strategy with New Orleans~ RH 2-3-16
City police share heroin strategy with New Orleans
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
STAFF WRITER | February 03, 2016
The way Rutland City Police have deliberately tackled the city’s heroin epidemic has never been done before, a national observer said Tuesday.
“I think what they have done, is nationally unprecedented,” David M. Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities said in an interview Tuesday night. “Rutland systematically mapped the entire structure of the heroin market and designed an intervention for every part of the market.”
Kennedy, whose organization is based at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, has worked with Rutland in this process.
And now cities around the nation, including New Orleans and Atlanta, are asking Rutland City Police, “How did you do it?”
On Monday morning, Chief Brian Kilcullen, Commander David Covell and crime analyst Bradley GoodHale shared the city’s blueprint for change with New Orleans WWL regional talk radio listeners in five Gulf States.
“Our host, Garland Robinette, read an article about Rutland City Police and asked me to try and get them on the show,” said Helen Centanni, producer of “The Think Tank,” a show that examines community issues.
Kilcullen said Tuesday that Rutland is certainly getting some exposure — but it is not just the police, it’s the entire community.
At the opening of the show, Robinette said of New Orleans, “Last year, we had 43 heroin overdoses, and in the past three weeks there were seven heroin deaths.
“Rutland, devastated by heroin, organized Project VISION and developed ways to handle the epidemic,” he said.
Robinette then introduced his three city police guests and opened with a question for the chief.
“Give us the Reader’s Digest version of what’s been done,” Robinette said.
“Rutland is well ahead of the game,” Kilcullen said. “The community has taken ownership of the issue, and we have 300 people involved in Project VISION.”
Robinette talked about the New Orleans’ heroin problem and how they are struggling with the issue.
“David, tell me what’s going on and what are you doing differently?” he asked Covell.
“Every two weeks, we meet in our RUTSTAT meetings and review calls for services and determine the best course of action,” Covell said. “What is different from traditional COMSTAT meetings is, we have social services, mental health and community leaders in the meetings and we look at repeat calls for services so we can get to the root causes.”
GoodHale shared the latest Rutland statistics: There are 750 individuals getting treatment, burglaries are down 60 percent and thefts are down 45 percent.
GoodHale talked about Kennedy and his model: “Professor Kennedy was one of the first people we partnered with … we utilized his strategies for reducing gun violence to reduce drug abuse and now we are looking at it for domestic assaults.”
Robinette talked about Rutland’s initial reluctance to host a methadone program.
And then asked about high Suboxone treatment numbers.
“Could the argument be made that you have reduced the reliance on heroin with other drugs?” he asked.
Kilcullen said it is a treatment.
And GoodHale added, “When we find out about how opiates affect the brain, there is a whole different outlook on these people. You can’t arrest your way out of the heroin issue.”
On Tuesday, Kilcullen said that what Rutland is doing offers a guide for other cities.
“It is really a blueprint for any community to take,” he said.
Centanni, the producer, said the station hopes to have Rutland police on the show again in March when Capt. Scott Tucker goes to New Orleans.
In Tuesday night’s interview, Kennedy said Rutland’s market-disruption approach is promising for other areas.
“Nobody has done this before and it is quite a radical way of approaching it,” he said. “Rutland is no longer a place where they know they can come and buy heroin.”
Still, he is not certain what Rutland did can translate into other communities.
“My honest answer is, we don’t know,” Kennedy said. “There are emerging heroin problems around the country and the next question is whether other cities can do this.”