In May, a police department in Gloucester, Massachusetts began treating addiction as an illness, not a crime. Following several opiate-related overdoses in the small town of Gloucester (which has just under 30,000 residents), Police Chief Leonard Campanello enacted a policy that changed the way law enforcement treated addicts. Campanello announced the new policy in a Facebook post: “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.” Campanello also said that any costs incurred in the treatment of addicts would be paid for by the city’s drug seizure money
Within a month, 17 people had asked for opiate addiction treatment as part of the new program. Now Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is considering adopting the policy, calling it a “great idea and a great pilot program.” The program is officially titled the “Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative,” and it may be leading the charge in changing national drug and treatment policy that views addiction as a crime.
In addition to helping addicts in need, the program could also have the benefit of showing a community that police can actually help them instead of just arrest or murder them, an image readjustment a lot of the nation’s police force could try for by similar means.
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