Program to aid fight against overdoses


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Police Department is expanding its fight against drug overdoses with the help of AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps is a federal agency that funds organizations to make positive impact in communities, its website states. The agency is paying to embed a Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) position in the Naugatuck Police Department to focus on the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). The borough department was selected as one of 22 across the country chosen to host a VISTA.

PAARI focuses on combating drug overdoses and opioid addiction. It targets people who have overdosed or are at risk to overdose and works to connect with services to get treatment.

The VISTA position, which will work full-time out of the police department, is slated to start Dec. 18 and run through Dec. 7, 2022, according to Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister.

“Ultimately, this is part of our larger effort to reduce fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses in the borough,” McAllister said.

Borough police partnered with several behavioral health agencies and St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury to first launch PAARI locally in September 2019. McAllister said the VISTA position is an extension of the program.

“Law enforcement is looking for ways to reduce drug overdoses and PAARI is one of the ways,” McAllister said.

The position is designed to help build, strengthen and sustain police-led programs to reduce and prevent overdose deaths and help more people with opioid use disorder get into treatment and recovery, according to a post for the job opening. The position’s responsibilities will include creating access to care for people with a substance use disorder, and developing a plan for increasing awareness and participation. The post states individuals with experience with addiction, including those who are in recovery, are ideal candidates for the service position. For information on the position, visit the Naugatuck Police Department’s Facebook page.

The number of fatal opioid overdoses in Naugatuck has remained consistent over recent years, McAllister said.

As of the last week, there had been six confirmed fatal overdoses this year, according to statistics provided by the police department. Police were waiting on confirmation of the cause of death in six other cases from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, he said.

There were 15 fatal overdoses in Naugatuck in 2020 and 2019, according to the data.