Tuesday, November 24, 2015 by Carol Young
Gloucester, Massachusetts is the small town some may probably remember from the film The Perfect Storm. Aside from being recognized because of the movie, this small town is now known to be the first city to undertake one of the greatest strides toward ending the endless and useless war on drugs.
Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced this year that drug addicts seeking assistance to overcome their addiction can now receive help from police stations, without facing any repercussions for doing so. He even went so far as to say that people could bring in the remainders of their stash and not face any charges. Campanello made this announcement on Facebook and has been praised by the people of Gloucester and others from across the nation.
“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…I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.”
Campanello plans to work with the feds to hammer out how they intend to handle the finer points of this policy:
“I will bring the idea of how far Gloucester is willing to go to fight this disease and will ask them to hold federal agencies, insurance companies and big business accountable for building a support system that can eradicate opiate addiction and provide long term, sustainable support to reduce recidivism…We wanted the police department to be one of the safe havens that you can walk in when you are ready…and we don’t want to waste that moment when the addict is ready. We made a conscious decision here in Gloucester that we’re done with an addict being criminally charged for the offense of addiction. We’re going to take that extra step and make sure they get the treatment they need.”
Gloucester, a small town of only about 30,000, has already seen dozens of opiate-related overdoses and at least four deaths related to heroine this year alone. For a town so small, these numbers have been shocking to the community and the police department. Because of this, Campanello readily admits that law enforcement’s current war on drugs simply isn’t working.
“The war on drugs is over,” he said. “And we lost. There is no way we can arrest our way out of this. We’ve been trying that for 50 years. We’ve been fighting it for 50 years, and the only thing that has happened is heroin has become cheaper and more people are dying.”
Campanello said even addicts from out of state are turning to Gloucester for help. As of August, 109 people have sought help, one in six are from out of state and a shocking 80 percent of them are under the age of 30.