Happily surprised to see in today’s Atlantic a fascinating interview with Gloucester Chief of Police Leonard Campanello. He started a Facebook post that already has 1.5 million hits, generated a community wide forum that lead to a radical solution to the opiate problem, and has bipartisan support from State Sen. Bruce Tarr, Congressman Moulton, and Senators Markey and Warren-who will all be presenting Campenello’s new strategy for tackling addiction before Congress. The strategy=decriminalize drug addiction and get addicts the help they need.
From the article:
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. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an “angel” who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.
Narcan, the artificial opiate drug to prevent overdose will now be available for free over the counter at Gloucester drug stores to anyone who needs it. The coverage has been paid for using revenues seized from drug dealers.
Highlights from the Interview:
There’s an expectation among the public and even those who use this drug that the health community is there to help and to treat it as a disease, but the police department is there to treat it as a crime. And when we start seeing lives lost because of it, and we don’t see any results from an enforcement standpoint, we have to start looking at it differently.
I think law enforcement in general needs to focus on supply as well, but we need to be doing much more with demand. I think that we’re getting close to really proving that attacking the supply is not working and I think that we need to spend a lot more time on the demand. This initiative is one of the ways that we can be compassionate, progressive, bipartisan, and unilateral, because we’re talking about saving lives, and I think the bottom line is it’s the right thing to do.
Kudos to Chief Campanello and our local policy leaders for this innovative approach to policing and addiction treatment. I am proud to see so many local leaders step up to solve this problem, and to see Massachusetts once again be a leader in public health.