Viral vigilance: Heading off heroin crisis requires ‘revolutionary’ action

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Gloucester Mass. Police Chief Leonardo Campanello
Gloucester Mass. Police Chief Leonardo Campanello

MANCHESTER, NH – During Tuesday night’s public comment session before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Kaitlyn McCarthy of Heavy Street sat down for her three minutes at the microphone.

She had come to talk about crime in her neighborhood.

She told the board that in the past seven weeks her car had been broken into three times, and that they’d had more than $2,000 in items stolen. Even her husband’s bike, which is his only means of transportation, had been swiped.

McCarthy went on to talk about crime rates on the West Side of the city versus the East Side, and then she asked the million-dollar question:

“What’s being done to stop the root of the problem, the heroin addiction and homelessness in our city?” McCarthy asked.  “It doesn’t seem like there’s good access to affordable or free help for people who want it.”

McCarthy’s right – we hear more about heroin overdoses, drug arrests and lack of money for treatment here in Manchester, than solutions. Yes, there are efforts in place and lots of people working in the trenches, toward change. But the daily toll on families and businesses and police resources seems to continue to spin out of control.

That’s why we were struck by a recent Facebook post by the Gloucester Mass. Chief of police, Leonardo Campanello. It’s been circulating via social media, and is worth reading, and sharing. Compared to Manchester, Gloucester is just a sleepy little town of 29,000 or so. But we applaud the chief’s initiative and hope it can be an inspiration to others to take radical action:


On Saturday, May 2, the City of Gloucester held a forum regarding the opiate crisis, and on how Gloucester has many resources for help. We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this DISEASE. Your Police Department vowed to take the following measures to assist, beginning June 1, 2015:

  • Nasal Narcan has just been made available at local pharmacies without a prescription. The police department has entered into an agreement with Conleys and is working on one with CVS that will allow anyone access to the drug at little to no cost regardless of their insurance. The police department will pay the cost of nasal narcan for those without insurance. We will pay for it with money seized from drug dealers during investigations. We will save lives with the money from the pockets of those who would take them. We recognize that nasal narcan is not the answer, but it is saving lives and no one in this City will be denied a life saving drug for this disease just because of a lack of insurance. Conleys has also agreed to assist with insurance requests from those who do not have any.
  • 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. Addison Gilbert and Lahey Clinic have committed to helping fast track people that walk into the police department so that they can be assessed quickly and the proper care can be administered quickly.
  • I will personally travel to Washington DC, with the support of Mayor Theken, the City Council, Sen. Bruce Tarr, and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, on May 12 and 13. There I will meet with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton. I will bring what Gloucester is accomplishing and challenge them to change, at the federal level, how we receive aid, support and assistance. 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.

I am asking for your help. Like this post, send it to everyone you can think of and ask them to do the same. Speak your comments. Create strength in numbers. I will bring it with me to show how many voters are concerned about this issue. Lives are literally at stake. I have been on both sides of this issue, having spent seven years as a plainclothes narcotics detective. 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.

Please help us make permanent change here in Gloucester.

Thank you,
Chief Leonardo Campanello


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About Carol Robidoux 5218 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.