Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo stands in front of city officials and Families Against Narcotics officials as he discusses the new partnership between his department and FAN outside City Hall Sept. 14.

Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo stands in front of city officials and Families Against Narcotics officials as he discusses the new partnership between his department and FAN outside City Hall Sept. 14.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Ferndale police, Families Against Narcotics partner to help overdose victims

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 22, 2020

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FERNDALE — At a press conference Sept. 14, the Ferndale Police Department and the nonprofit organization Families Against Narcotics announced a new partnership to help those in the city struggling with addiction.

Ferndale police and FAN announced the creation of the COMEBACK Quick Response Team, which will be tasked with assisting individuals suffering from substance use disorder and opioid use disorder. The program and partnership has grown from the department and FAN’s “Hope Not Handcuffs” collaboration, where struggling persons are able to go into local police departments to ask for help with their addiction without fear of being arrested.

“When an overdose occurs, (first responders) will leave a packet of information telling them we’re going to be calling them so that they know in advance there’s nothing to be afraid of, we’re not there to arrest them or anything, and we will start providing services,” said FAN Executive Director Linda Davis. “What we’re doing is taking the Hope Not Handcuffs program right to the doorstep so that if you’re uncomfortable walking (into a police department), we’ll bring it to you.”

The Quick Response Team will consist of a police officer, peer recovery coach and family recovery coach who will show up within 72 hours of the overdose to help the individual and their family. The officer involved will be in plain clothes in an unmarked vehicle.

“We will have a peer recovery coach that can work with the person that is suffering from substance use disorder and a family coach that will be there to help the family navigate the system,” Davis said. “They are simply there to provide services to you. You do not need to fear being arrested. The police have agreed that your health is more important than any arrest that they could make and they are there only to help you.”

For the majority of his 32 years in law enforcement, Ferndale Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo stated, the perception of addiction was “looked at way differently than we do today.” In about 2016, there was a paradigm shift, he said, and police quit looking at addiction one way and realized “it’s actually a disease.”

Palazzolo said that his department has saved the lives of 95 people since 2016 thanks to naloxone, a life-saving medication for those who suffer an opioid overdose. He added that naloxone, while a great tool, is more like a Band-Aid and not a permanent fix.

“Once you rip that Band-Aid off, I mean, just this year we had three overdoses — three saves, same person, same address. So the fix doesn’t always fix it long term,” he said. “We need to be able to get back to those folks when they’re a little bit clearer headed with a group of people that maybe aren’t wearing a uniform. They’re caring, they’re offering services immediately. So that’s why, when this program was available, we jumped on, no questions asked.”

Any help provided by the Quick Response Team will not have a cost to the individual, Davis said. The initiative is funded through a $90,000 federal grant obtained by FAN.

Davis also said that if an individual refuses any help or services from the Quick Response Team, they still will come back to check on the person at a later date.

“Everybody is ready at their own time to receive help,” she said. “Most people don’t think they can get well. … Where we’ve been able to connect with individuals, most of them will take help because they don’t want to be sick. This is not a pleasant lifestyle and people just don’t know a way out. So when a group shows up and they provide that hope to somebody, it weighs on them. They know there’s a solution out there, and a lot of times they may not take help, but we get calls the next day or three days later saying … ‘I’ll give it a try.’ We send the team right back out again.”

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