Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jan 2016
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2016 Star Advertiser
Author: Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times


Heroin Addicts Receive Treatment, Not Prison, in an East Coast Town 
Moved by Overdoses

CANTON, OHIO - Leonard Campanello, police chief of Gloucester, Mass., 
took the microphone here in mid-December and opened with his usual 
warm-up line: I'm from Gloucester, he said in his heavy New England 
accent. "That's spelled 'G-l-o-s-t-a-h.'"

A casually profane man with a philosophical bent, Campanello, 48, 
first drew national attention last spring when he wrote on Facebook 
that the old war on drugs was lost and over. A believer that 
addiction is a disease, not a crime, he became the unusual law 
enforcement officer offering heroin users an alternative to prison.

"Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of 
their drug equipment (needles, etc.) or drugs and asks for help will 
not be charged," he wrote. "Instead we will walk them through the 
system toward detox and recovery" and send them for treatment "on the spot."

That post from a smalltown police chief was shared more than 30,000 
times and viewed by 2.4 million people. By June his police department 
had put his promise into action in what became known as Gloucester's 
Angel program.

Critics said that he did not have the authority to take the law into 
his own hands and forgo arrests. But other police departments, fed up 
with arresting addicts and getting nowhere, saw the Gloucester 
approach as a promising new way to address the epidemic of heroin and 
prescription pain pills, which together killed 47,055 people in 2014 
nationwide - more than died in car accidents, homicides or suicides.

Since the program began, 391 addicts have turned themselves in at the 
city's brick police station. About 40 percent are from the Gloucester 
area; the rest come from all over the country. All have been placed 
in treatment. Just as surprisingly, 56 police departments in 17 
states have started programs modeled on or inspired by Gloucester's, 
with 110 more preparing to do so.

In addition, 200 treatment centers across the country have signed on 
as partners. In six months Gloucester, which steers people to 
treatment but does not itself provide it, has developed a nationwide 
network of centers willing to provide beds and take referrals by the 
police, regardless of whether the addict has insurance.

"This has the potential to be a disruptive innovation that changes 
the picture of how we deal with the disease," said David Rosenbloom, 
a professor of health policy and management at the Boston University 
School of Public Health, who has been analyzing data for Gloucester. 
And it is a measure of the widespread desperation to move beyond the 
war on drugs that so many have been willing to try it.

These days the chief is often on the road, addressing police 
departments, parents and treatment providers in speeches like the one 
here last month to 150 substance abuse clinicians, sponsored by the 
Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Stark County.

He told the audience how his officers had developed their own 
database of treatment sites, which they call over and over until they 
secure a bed.

"A bed not available at 10 a.m. might be available at 10:10, but they 
won't tell you that," Campanello said. "If you want Bruce Springsteen 
tickets, you aren't going to stop calling because you get a busy signal."

But being matched with a bed is just the first step on the long, 
grueling road to recovery. Heroin retains such a ferocious grip on 
brain cells that relapses are viewed as part of the process.

Campanello said addicts in his program are always welcomed back, no 
questions asked.

The Gloucester Angel program grew out of a town forum last spring on 
the heroin crisis. Four people had died of overdoses in the first 
three months of 2015, more than had died in all of 2014. Residents 
said they wanted addicts treated with compassion.

Campanello said the program, which operates around the clock, "is 
about a community's journey helping one another, a humanitarian 
effort that they wanted their police department to reflect."

When addicts show up, an officer calls on one of 55 "angels," local 
volunteers who are in recovery or otherwise familiar with addiction, 
to listen and offer moral support. The officer takes a history and 
starts dialing treatment facilities, where clinicians determine what 
treatment best suits the addict and of what duration. Beds have been 
found in as little as 17 minutes and as much as a couple of days. 
Some of those beds are as close as Gloucester; others, as far away as 

Many local businesses support the program: A pharmacy in Gloucester 
discounted naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose, and 
CVS and Walgreens followed suit. Taxi companies provide free rides to 
treatment facilities or the airport. The ambulance service offers a 
reduced rate.

The department spends an average of $55 for each addict, Campanello 
said, compared with $220 spent to arrest, process and hold an addict 
in custody for a single day.

Most of the costs are borne by the Police Assisted Addiction and 
Recovery Initiative, which Campanello founded last summer with John 
E. Rosenthal, a businessman who lives in Gloucester. Rosenthal has 
worked to alleviate homelessness in Boston and founded Stop Handgun Violence.

The police initiative has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and 
received millions in in-kind contributions, including placement in 
treatment centers. "When the chief wrote that blog post in the spring 
and got 2.4 million hits, he called and said, 'Help!'" Rosenthal 
said. "I saw very quickly that this could be a tipping point."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom