Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jan 2016
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Katharine Q. Seelye, the New York Times


Critics Say He Lacked Authority to Take Law into His Own Hands, but 
Others Are Following His Lead

Leonard Campanello, the 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 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. More than 50 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.

But being matched with a bed is just the first step for an addict 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 were 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.

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.

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 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.

The group 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