by Lorenzo Burgio
Last spring, Police Chief Leonard Campanello of Gloucester, Mass. stated that any drug addict who walks into the station with the remainder of their drug equipment, will not be arrested – instead they will be helped through the system to recovery and detox.
Campanello recognizes addiction as a disease and acknowledges that now the war on drugs is over, a new tactic is necessary. The Gloucester Police Department has created the Gloucester Angels Program specifically to help rehabilitate addicts. This alternate approach to addiction has proven to yield great results. Campanello’s initiative and understanding could be the essential angle to tackle this country’s drug issue.
Campanello generated the best possible approach to the drug problem. According to a National Post article, Campanello uses seized drug money to buy Narcan, a lifesaving drug that can bring an individual back from the brink of death in the case of an overdose. This is an incredibly creative and effective way to aid addicts, and should be utilized more throughout the country.
The chief recognized that when someone is suffering from an overdose, other individuals present hesitate to call for aid out of fear of being arrested. “Campanello acknowledged that addiction is a real disease that requires treatment and isn’t a form of deviancy to be punished,” said the National Post.
“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,” stated a New York Times article.
Since the program began in July, 2015, 391 addicts sought out help from the Gloucester Police Department. Some individuals are from the Gloucester area and others from all over the country. Every single one has been placed in treatment.
Currently, 56 police departments in 17 states have enacted a plan similar to Campanello’s and another 110 are in the process of starting, according to the New York Times. Additionally, Campanello got around 200 treatment centers to sign on as partners from around the country.
This comes at a good time, as Congress has recently lifted a ban that restricted federal money to be used for clean needle exchanges. Yes, this has been proven to dramatically decrease H.I.V., infections and death and is a necessity – but more needs to be done, more funds need to be distributed to different entities that provide rehabilitation services.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is currently making its way through both houses of Congress. It is vital for this act to be put to its full use. If passed, addiction treatment would dramatically improve throughout the country, and programs such as Campanello’s would have much more access to funding; something this country is in desperate need of. According to the New York Times, under the act, human services and the secretary of health are required to generate the best system for distributing possibly abusive medications, as well as inform doctors nationwide.
The act would also allow the federal government to grant money to state and local governments, rehabilitation centers and non-profits to further treat addiction as a disorder.
According to the New York Times, the act will do so much more. For example, “Expanding or developing alternatives to incarceration, such as treatment, for defendants who meet certain criteria; improving educational opportunities for offenders in jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities.”
There is a clear need for this act to be passed. Programs such as Campanello’s have been proven to work, but need federal, state and local governments to aid them in their quests to rehabilitate addicts and treat addiction like a disorder.