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

A version of this article appears in print on January 25, 2016, on
page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Throwing Away the
Book, a Police Chief Stresses Rehab Over Jail . Order Reprints|
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CANTON, Ohio - 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, Chief Campanello, 
48, first drew national attention last spring when he wrote on 
Facebook that the old war on drugs was lost and over. Convinced that 
addiction is a disease, not a crime or moral failing, 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 the Gloucester 
approach as a promising 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," Chief 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.

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

He then turned somber, telling the audience about a phone call he 
received that morning.

A man named Steve Jesi had called to say his daughter, Stephenie, 33, 
who had been in and out of the Gloucester program, had relapsed for a 
third time, overdosed and been found dead. She was the first person 
in the program who did not make it.

"Despite our best efforts, we know people will die," Chief Campanello 
told the audience. "That doesn't make it feel any better."

His voice caught. His eyes welled with tears.

"I know it's successful," he said of the program. "And I know we're 
saving lives. But we worry about the one we lost."

The Eriks of the World

The youngest of four children, Mr. Campanello grew up in a Roman 
Catholic Italian family in Saugus, a blue-collar town 10 miles north 
of Boston. His father was a department store salesman, while his 
mother raised the family.

In 1990, Mr. Campanello was studying criminal justice at Northeastern 
University in Boston, where he earned his bachelor's degree, when he 
joined the Saugus police force. He later earned a master's degree in 
criminal justice administration at Boston University.

Russell Campanello, his older brother by 12 years, a technology 
industry executive, tried to talk him into becoming a lawyer. But, 
Russell said, "he felt there were enough lawyers and not enough 
police on the street helping people."

During his 22 years on the Saugus force, Chief Campanello worked 
undercover in the narcotics unit for seven years. There, he met a boy 
named Erik whose parents were heroin addicts. Erik was using by age 
12 and dead by 19.

"We arrested Erik a dozen times," Chief Campanello recalled one night 
on his way to O'Hare International Airport after participating in a 
panel discussion in Chicago.

"We thought things like 'Erik needs help,'" he said. "But there were 
no avenues for that, especially through the police force. It wasn't 
our responsibility."

In 2012, he became chief in Gloucester, a fishing town of 28,000 and 
the setting for "The Perfect Storm." The chief, who plays the piano 
by ear, is drawn to songs like Mr. Springsteen's "You're Missing," an 
elegy about loss after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It 
reminds him, he said, of those who have lost someone to heroin.

And as head of a 60-person police force, he said, he was at last in a 
position to do something for the Eriks of the world.

With Compassion

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.

The idea that addiction should be treated as a health issue instead 
of a crime has gained currency as heroin has spread from inner cities 
to the nation's suburbs, rural outposts and the white middle class.

Chief 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 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, Chief 
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 Chief Campanello founded last summer with 
John E. Rosenthal, a businessman who lives in Gloucester. Mr. 
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!'" Mr. Rosenthal 
said. "I saw very quickly that this could be a tipping point."

Among the program's success stories is Kristina, 29, who had a steady 
job and lived near Gloucester. She did not want her last name used.

She broke an ankle, started out on pain pills and ultimately moved on 
to heroin. After about two years, she said, she started "creating 
wreckage" in her life, crashing her car and losing her apartment. She 
tried without success to find treatment on her own.

Finally, she said, facing jail time, she turned herself in at the 
Gloucester police station.

"They worked every avenue to get me into treatment," Kristina said. 
Occasionally officers call to check on her. "They said, 'If you ever 
need anything, the doors are still open, no matter what.'"

Still, the program has its critics.

Jonathan W. Blodgett, the district attorney of Essex County, where 
Gloucester is, warned Chief Campanello that he did not have the 
authority to offer amnesty to someone for the crime of heroin possession.

The chief and other law enforcement officers insist that the police 
have discretion when it comes to arrests.

Elizabeth D. Scheibel, a former district attorney for the 
Northwestern District of Massachusetts 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.

Chief Campanello said that his officers pursued drug traffickers, and 
that some addicts had even pointed the police to their dealers. But 
during one speech, to officers in Belfast, Me., 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."

Chief Campanello has laid out his philosophy - encapsulated in a 
bumper sticker on his office wall, "Strong Men Don't Bully" - and the 
program's nuts and bolts in officer-to-officer talks around the 
country. Chiefs from Scarborough, Me.; Cooperstown, N.Y.; Lodi, Ohio; 
and Rolling Meadows, Ill., among others, have sought his advice as 
they duplicated his program. So far, more than 400 addicts nationwide 
have turned themselves in at 56 police departments.

"Lenny triggered some amazing out-of-the-box thinking," said 
Frederick Ryan, the chief in Arlington, Mass., a Boston suburb, which 
plans to offer its own amnesty program this year.

Gloucester's mayor, Sefatia Romeo Theken, also stands behind the chief.

"I think it's a fantastic program," she said. "If we arrested every 
single addict, they'd just be back on the street."

Of course, overdoses continue to occur. On Jan. 17, Gloucester 
grappled with four in a 24-hour period. Naloxone revived the addicts. 
And Chief Campanello again took to Facebook, reaching out to all 
addicts and assuring them that if they turned themselves in, there 
would be no judgment.

"We accept you," he posted.

"If you're discouraged because you've tried before," he wrote, "know 
that relapse is part of the disease, and we will be there again and 
again and again until you make it."

Eulogies, Still

For all his efforts, sometimes all Chief Campanello can do is deliver 
a heartfelt eulogy, as he did for Stephenie Jesi on a frigid Saturday 
before Christmas.

Her problem started when she broke an ankle in 2012 and was 
prescribed OxyContin. She soon went from a good-paying job with 
Verizon and a nice home in Stoneham, about 10 miles north of Boston, 
to a losing battle with heroin.

A year ago, she went to rehab in Florida, but relapsed. "She was 
using again, and was off and running," said her father, 62, a 
business consultant.

Over the next several months, it would be the same story of 
treatment, relapse and trouble.

Stephenie entered the Gloucester program in August, and the chief got 
her into a treatment facility. After further relapses, Chief 
Campanello got her into a second treatment facility, and then a third.

"There's no manual about what to do," said her mother, Cheryl Marlow, 
61. "The chief was our only resource."

On Dec. 8, Stephenie overdosed again, was treated at a hospital and 
was then discharged.

Three days later, she sent her parents an email saying she was on a 
waiting list for a bed, but not through Gloucester.

"I don't know how to put all my pieces back together, and this is 
very embarrassing to go through this in front of so many people who 
don't understand anything about addiction," she wrote. "The people 
who say, 'If she really cared at all about her family, she would have 
stopped a long time ago,' or, 'she's tried getting clean more times 
then I can count; what makes this time any different?' - those are 
the kinds of questions that make this so embarrassing and so hard to 
come back each time."

The next day, she exchanged texts with her mother, who asked if she 
had Chief Campanello's number. She did. "I don't know why she didn't 
call him," her mother said later.

Stephenie died that night, alone in a hotel room.

Her parents said that despite having lost their daughter, they were 
grateful to the chief and his officers for all they had done. "He was 
the only go-to person that I had to go to," Mr. Jesi said.

They urged friends and family to make donations to the Police 
Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative and asked the chief to 
deliver their daughter's eulogy.

Hundreds of mourners packed the church, St. Mary of the Annunciation, 
in Danvers. "Her death for us is a great loss, and one that we will 
suffer as a police department with all of you for a very, very long 
time," Chief Campanello said.

His officers would redouble their efforts to fight the disease, he 
told the mourners. "We will, in the words of Dylan Thomas, rage 
against the dying of the light, again." His voice cracked.

Stephenie's four brothers carried her coffin to a waiting hearse. 
Gloucester police cars led the procession to the cemetery. She was 
buried next to her grandparents.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom