STONEHAM — Chief James McIntyre is proud to report that the Stoneham Police Department and Detective Lt. David Stefanelli have been honored by the Metro Boston Crisis Intervention Team 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. Detective Lt. Stefanelli received a Synergy Award, and the Stoneham Police Department, Lt. Christopher Apalakis, and Sgt. Christopher Dalis were honored for their commitment to Crisis Intervention outreach.
“Over the years Stoneham Police Department quickly made strides to move beyond CIT training toward implementation,” Director Contente said. “Dave, I recall early on your efforts to conduct outreach to individuals impacted by addiction. Stoneham has been a department that has consistently built and expanded partnerships.”
Director Contente also thanked Chief McIntyre for his leadership and support for expanding the department’s focus on CIT.
In 2017, Detective Lt. Stefanelli helped start the precursor to what has become the Stoneham Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team program, just by keeping track of and following up with people who experienced overdoses.
“Within a month or so we saw the need to expand our efforts to reach out to people that were suffering with substance use disorder,” said Detective Lt. Stefanelli. “Well, that sure took on a life of its own, and in addition to my full-time duties as the Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division, I would read all the patrol division reports (disturbances, domestic violence calls, crashes, OUI’s, etc.) and if the call was related to substance use, I would place them on a spreadsheet that I created. Then our ‘Community Addiction Coordinator’ and I would go visit them and offer services, but more importantly attempt to become a trusted person they could count on.”
There were 34 known overdoses in Stoneham in 2019, including two that were fatal; 40 in 2020, including four that were fatal; and 41 in 2021, including seven that were fatal. Members of the Stoneham Police Department attempted to follow up with all individuals involved in those incidents.
In 2019, the department identified 204 calls for service that had a mental health component, but a Crisis Intervention Team was not yet fully in operation. In 2020, the department identified 195 calls with a mental health component, and the CIT followed up on 32 of them.
In 2021 the number of CIT follow ups increased dramatically, thanks in part to a generous, multi-year grant from the Department of Mental Health which funded the creation of a joint Arrest/Jail Diversion Program with the Melrose Police Department, and the hiring of a clinician to help connect residents to critical services, and to train officers to improve responses to mental health calls.
In 2021, Stoneham Police identified 364 calls with a mental health component, and the CIT followed up with 184 of the individuals involved.
So far in 2022, there have been 156 calls for service with a mental health component, and the CIT has followed up with 61 individuals, as well as 10 suspected overdoses, one of which was fatal.
“I am extremely proud of the work that everyone at the Stoneham Police Department has done to address substance misuse disorder and behavioral health issues, and to make Crisis Intervention Training a part of our department’s culture,” said Chief McIntyre. “Detective Lt. Stefanelli has passionately and professionally led our efforts for years, and he could not be more deserving of this recognition.”
In 1989, Detective Lt. Stefanelli began his law enforcement career as a police officer for the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he was promoted to sergeant in 1994. Then in 1998, he joined the Stoneham Police Department as a police officer and earned his sergeant rank in 2003, followed by lieutenant in 2012. In 2016, he was promoted to detective lieutenant and became the commander of the Criminal Investigations Division.
Detective Lt. Stefanelli holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Western New England College, as well as a master’s certificate in dispute resolution and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Detective Lt. Stefanelli graduated from the prestigious FBI National Academy in 2015. In 2020 received the Stoneham Sapphire Award for his community outreach efforts.
He said that in his 33-years of work as a police officer, he has found outreach work to be the most rewarding. When he first began working on outreach, Detective Lt. Stefanelli attended as many trainings as he could, and read about the topic, eventually discovering two things that helped him tremendously with the work.
“The first one is just to try to sit on someone’s couch! It may sound odd, but it can totally change a relationship,” Detective Lt. Stefanelli said. “I still get calls from people asking when I am visiting them next, and I still visit some people I’ve been visiting for nearly five years.”
He said the second thing was that it’s important to count success not by the number of people who enter recovery, but by the number of small accomplishments that help individuals move in a positive direction, whether that be reading a book on recovery, signing up for a class or health insurance, or just getting an ID. While not everyone is ready to enter recovery right away, there is tremendous value in helping individuals to take small steps that move them in the right direction.
“Today, thanks to the Town of Stoneham and Chief McIntyre making this work a priority, we have all of our officers trained in Mental Health First Aid, with almost half certified in CIT via a 40-hour training course. We have Sgt. Christopher Dalis as our Behavioral Health Specialist overseeing the Department’s CIT programs, Substance Use Coordinator Tracy Ascolillo, as well as Toni Corcoran, who is our Jail Division Clinician. We also have about a dozen officers in our Crisis Intervention/Behavioral Health team, and we continue making great strides to try and help people in our community.”