Police Facebook photo of alleged overdose sparks controversy

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BRANDON, Vt. (WCAX) The Brandon Police Department took down a controversial Facebook post of police administering an overdose drug after they received dozens of negative comments about the picture.

You may have seen other departments in Vermont and around the country sharing stories and pictures of drug users overdosing. WCAX News spoke with a drug treatment center to find out the impact this has on the recovery community.

Brandon police shared a picture taken from an officer's body camera Wednesday, showing a man who allegedly overdosed and an officer administering Narcan. They shared the picture and the story behind it in a Facebook post, which then got hundreds of comments with mixed reactions.

Police Chief Christopher Brickell declined an on-camera interview about the post but said in an e-mail: "While I don't regret posting the photo, it was creating too many damaging, negative, hurtful responses online. So many directed at addicts that I cannot allow to continue. Additionally, it was getting so much feedback, it was a full-time job just editing the ridiculous vulgar posts people were leaving."

Gary De Carolis from the Turning Point Recovery Center in Burlington gives credit to the woman who brought the man to the police and says he's thankful first responders were able to use Narcan. But he says the post stigmatizes that person in the community and may prevent others from going to the police for help for fear of having their pictures posted on Facebook.

"We have to keep our expectations in check. We have to do the work that we love to do, and if it's saving someone's life and helping them move to a new place in their life, but if we start putting expectations on that person, that are our expectations for them, we're going to make some major mistakes and that was clearly one of them," De Carolis said.

Brandon police removed the photo Thursday afternoon and posted a follow-up statement. It said in part: "While many people were supportive and offered ways to get help, it was discouraging to see so many posters laying blame, using derogatory language towards each other. Calling people out and wishing people ill will from a keyboard. None of that activity is positive, nor does it help resolve the problem."

Brandon police said they will continue to use Narcan and assist those who are struggling with addiction to reach recovery.

Here are resources if you're ready to seek treatment for opiate addiction:

The Howard Center

The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County

Vermont Substance Abuse Treatment & Recovery Directory

How to find alcohol or drug addiction treatment in Vermont