Gloucester, Massachusetts is a quaint sailing town off of the northern shore of Massachusetts and has been gaining some unfortunate notoriety for its ongoing problem with opioid addiction. The Gloucester police department recently began a pilot program for drug addicts, which divert them from the harsh cycle of prison life and into addiction treatment centers where they can receive the help they need for their condition.
This new pilot program was enacted on June 1 , 2015, giving anybody, regardless of their income or status with health insurance, a chance at recovery. Leonardo Campanello, police chief in Gloucester said, “We try to place everyone as easily and quickly as possible.”Any addict can come into the Gloucester police station, surrender their drugs and not be arrested. Upon arrival, each addict is assigned an “angel,” who stands by their side and offers support to them, while their treatment program is formed.
Just 30 days into the formation of this program, 30 people have utilized this new initiative to attend substance abuse rehabs. Most of these people who’ve enrolled in the program this past month are residents of Massachusetts, but many have travelled from out of state to take advantage of this new program.
If there is not a bed available at a local addiction treatment program for an addict to go to, the Gloucester police department will locate a program that can offer them their services at a significant discount or offer them a scholarship. Some people in this initiative are being sent to drug and alcohol treatment centers as far away as Florida. Campanello says, “It’s a dirty myth that there are not enough beds available. It’s a myth that has to do with stigma and money.”
Campanello has been working in law enforcement for 25 years, seven of which he spent as a narcotics detective. During his experience working in narcotics, he said that he “spent a lot of time analyzing the data” and the “the science proves that [addiction] is a disease, not a crime.” His perspective on drug addiction has since changed significantly.
These efforts by the Campanello and the Gloucester police department show a rising shift in attitude towards finding those finding those suffering from addiction effective treatment and away from incarceration. The U.S. currently leads the world in incarceration rates and more than half of its prisoner population is serving sentences for drug-related crimes.
Recent regulations on prescription availability have led many painkiller addicts to make the switch over to heroin, due to the lower price. 77 percent of heroin users claim to have tried prescription opioids first.
A Gloucester pharmacy named Conley’s is partnering up with Gloucester police department’s new initiative to offer Nasal Narcan, which is an opiate antagonist which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. The Gloucester police department offered to front the bill with money obtained from previous drug arrests, to anybody whose insurance does not cover Narcan.
Alex Doyle, co-owner of Conleys’ said, “The goal here is to try to remove financial barriers to access…This way someone can have a second chance and get the help they need.”
This new initiative has already started to have an impression on the rest of the state. Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, announced the implementation of a $27 million plan to treat drug addiction, which is allocating fund towards an “addiction awareness campaign” and increased availability for treatment in the state.
Campanello and other law enforcement officials have founded the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), a nonprofit organization that offers resources to police departments who are interested in taking similar actions for treating addiction.
Despite this initiative being in its infancy, the Gloucester police department has formed partnerships with over 20 addiction treatment centers. The Gloucester police department has taken tremendous steps towards effective treating addiction on a personal level and steers away from the stigma that has plagued addiction for so long.
While this new initiative marks a positive improvement in the treatment of drug addiction on a local level with authorities, there is still a long way to go. The rate of heroin overdoses in the U.S. have quadrupled since 2000, now outnumbers car accidents as the leading cause of injury related deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sovereign Health Group is among the leading addiction treatment providers in the country. We offer a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs across the nation for patients who are struggling with addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with opiate addiction and is in need of treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 866-754-3385. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer