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Overdose response team helps Chelsea addicts after police response

by: Blair Miller Updated:

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CHELSEA, Mass. - There's a new twist in the fight against heroin. First responders in one local city aren't one and done when it comes to responding to overdose.

Instead, they're following up with users, days after they save their lives in an effort to get them help.

FOX25’s Blair Miller got a chance to ride along with the Chelsea heroin response team in a story you’ll see only on FOX25 News.

The program started just a few weeks ago in Chelsea where police say the heroin problems are so out of hand they've had to do something different.

They now have a special team that goes back to those people who overdose and makes it clear there is help.

It’s a struggle that Chris Alba knows all too well.

“I've overdosed multiple times,” he said. “It beat me down and brought me to my knees. I ended up having to go to jail.”

Now Alba is clean from drugs and he's living a life to help others beat the heroin addiction as a member of the overdose response team designed by the Chelsea Police Department.

“They’re more receptive to help from us when they learn to trust us and out there just to help them,” he said.

Alba rides around Chelsea everyday meeting with people who've recently overdosed.

The team follows up with people who've overdosed days after police and first responders initially are called to help.

“A lot of folks may not be ready for treatment at the particular time we engage with them.  But down the road they are.  We build trust and relationships with them,” Dan Cortez from the Chelsea Police Department said.

Chelsea police say they had 184 overdoses last year, and so far this year, that number is at 41.

Cortez and Alba say this new program isn't about numbers, it’s about the life or death decisions made by addicts every day.

“I wish there were people out here doing this stuff when I was running around and maybe I wouldn't have run as long as I had,” Alba said.

That team meets every Wednesday to figure out which addicts could use the most help.

Then they spend the next few days tracking them down and offering a variety of ways to help -- not just counseling.

These teams also carry Narcan to give to addicts to help fight the effects of heroin.