One town in Massachusetts is taking a bold stand against addiction, inviting people to turn in their drugs at the police station and in exchange receive treatment, rather than prosecution.
“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,” Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced via Facebook. “We will assign them an 'angel' who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.”
Campanello, who previously worked on the drug task force, acknowledged addiction as a disease that requires treatment.
“We wanted the police department to be one of the safe havens that you could walk in when you're ready, and we don't want to waste that moment when the addict is ready,” Campanello told Boston's WCVB News station.
Campanello hopes that the new policy helps to reduce the stigma around seeking treatment, particularly for opiate addictions, which are at epidemic proportions.
“The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money,” he said. “Petty reasons to lose a life. Heroin addicts can recover – and we can help them.”
The changes stem from a community meeting that the police held on May 2 to discuss new ways to fight opiate addiction. In addition to the walk-in policy, the police station will be working with local hospitals to “fast-track” patients and make sure that they receive adequate care. In addition, pharmacies in Gloucester will supply Nasal Narcan – an overdose antidote – free of charge and without perscription. Campanello said that the changes will be funded by money siezed from drug dealers.
Campanello will be travelling to Washington D.C. on May 12 and 13 to meet with representatives and discuss the changes that Gloucester is making.
“I will bring what Gloucester is accomplishing and challenge them to change, at the federal level, how we receive aid, support and assistance.”
You can read the full statement from Chief Campanello on the Gloucester Police Department's facebook page.