GLOUCESTER — Chief Edward Conley is proud to share that the Gloucester Police Department and Community Impact Unit Community Navigator Tito Rodriguez have been honored by the Metro Boston CIT Training & Technical Assistance Center (MB CIT-TTAC).
Patricia Contente, Director of the MB CIT-TTAC, presented the awards on Thursday night in a ceremony at the Peabody Boston Marriot in Peabody.
“Tito not only impacts Gloucester, he impacts the recovery community statewide,” Contente said as she presented the award. “I can’t tell you how often I hear from people, ‘Oh, do you get the list? There’s this guy, Tito, who sends a list every morning.'”
Rodriguez emails that list to about 300 contacts every day, holidays included. The list details all detox facilities in Massachusetts, as well as how many beds are open on that day.
In addition to the individual recognition earned by Rodriguez, the Gloucester Police Department was honored with a Synergy Award that noted the Department’s collaborative work to implement Crisis Intervention Team Training and philosophies and outreach to community members affected by behavioral health challenges.
“The dedication to partnering with organizations across systems has made Gloucester a leader and a model for the positive effects of an integrated public health and public safety approach. Gloucester PD exemplifies the synergy for which departments should strive,” the award states.
“Our community is beyond grateful to have Tito Rodriguez as part of the Gloucester Police Department’s Community Impact Unit,” said Lt. Jeremiah Nicastro, the unit’s leader. “I have never seen someone so respected, hard-working, and compassionate in our community. I am blessed to have Tito on our team.”
The Community Impact Unit (CIU) was formed in February 2020, seeking to expand upon the work of the Angel Program to offer support and resources to anyone struggling with substance misuse, mental health concerns, or homelessness. The Department’s School Resource Officers are part of the unit and work to build positive relationships with students.
As Community Navigator, Rodriguez has had thousands of interactions with community members to connect them to detox, recovery support, Narcan training and distribution, legal and employment resources, and housing support.
“In just over two years of operation, the Community Impact Unit has performed even above the high expectations I had when we created and unit. I could not be more proud of the work they have done,” said Chief Conley. “Our entire department and the City of Gloucester are committed to using a multi-agency, collaborative approach to providing support, understanding, and resources to all community members, and Tito Rodriguez and the Community Impact Unit are a keystone of that strategy.”
“Tito is such a respected and valued member of our community and the Gloucester Police Department’s Community Impact Unit,” said Mayor Greg Verga. “His dedication and passion are remarkable; this is a well-deserved recognition.”
Rodriguez is also featured in a documentary created by MB CIT-TTAC which premiered at the awards ceremony on Thursday night. “The COHR Solution: A community response to a fragmented system” will be available on the MB CIT-TTAC website next week.
Rodriguez moved to New England from New York in 1976, and directed a human services agency in the area until alcohol and drug misuse caught up with him. “I was running a local agency for a while, and went from that to living in the weeds and the empties in the South End of Boston,” Rodriguez said. “It was a quick fall.”
Rodriguez has been in recovery since May 19, 1982. He will celebrate 40 years of sobriety later this month.
Rodriguez was raised by his grandparents, who taught him from an early age that it was important to give back to the community. When Rodriguez got sober, a big part of the 12-Step Program that helped him was serving as a sponsor and helping others seeking sobriety, so he has been active in the recovery community for decades.
Rodriguez worked as a jail-diversion coordinator for the Lynn Police Department, and with the Gloucester Angel Initiative and Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative before Chief Conley shared his vision for a Community Impact Unit, leading Rodriguez to join the Gloucester Police Department as a Community Navigator in 2020.
“I truly believe that law enforcement can play a role with what they do, and the unit that we have really tries to do that in a variety of ways. I just happen to be the person who deals with those who are homeless and addicted,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s a good model and something that should be replicated.”
He believes his life experience helps him connect more quickly with others who are struggling like he did.
“I know what it is to be hopeless and helpless so when I’m talking to other addicts I can relate, and look in their eyes and see their pain, but they can look in my eyes and see there’s hope,” said Rodriguez.
Anyone seeking to donate to the Community Impact Unit’s work is asked to send a check in the name of the Gloucester Fund to the Community Impact Unit, 67 Middle St., Unit 25, Gloucester, MA 01930.
To learn more about the Metro Boston CIT Training & Technical Assistance Center and other award winners, visit: https://www.metrobostoncit.org/.