Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jan 2016
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The Buffalo News
Author: Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times


Police Chief From Gloucester, Mass., Champions Effort of Detox, Recovery

CANTON, Ohio - Leonard Campanello, police chief of Gloucester, Mass., 
took the microphone here in midDecember and opened with his usual 
warm-up line: I'm from Gloucester, he said in his heavy Boston 
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 small-town 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 a 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, 375 addicts have turned themselves in at the 
city's brick police station. About 40 percent are from the Gloucester 
area; the rest find their way there 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.

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 as California.

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 group has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and received 
millions in in-kind contributions, including placement in treatment 
centers. Still, the program has its critics. Jonathan W. Blodgett, 
district attorney of Essex County, which includes Gloucester, warned 
Campanello that he did not have the authority to offer amnesty to 
someone for the crime of heroin possession.

Elizabeth D. Scheibel, a former district attorney for the 
Northwestern District of Massachusetts, based in Northampton, raises 
other questions. "Selective enforcement" of the law, she said, "could 
well have a disparate impact on the constitutional rights of other offenders."

And, she said, promising amnesty not only takes away an incentive to 
complete a treatment program, it could also complicate an 
investigation involving an addict who might have been involved in a 
serious crime before surrendering to the police.

Campanello said his officers still pursued drug traffickers, and that 
some of the addicts had even pointed the police to their dealers. But 
during one speech, to police officers in Belfast, Maine, he realized 
he might come across as soft.

"I'm sounding less like a police chief and more like a social 
activist," he said. "I'm going to have to go arrest somebody."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom