UPDATE: Gloucester Police Chief goes to Washington, D.C., returns with support for ‘revolutionary’ drug policy

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Gloucester, Mass., Chief’s ‘Gloucester Program’ in the spotlight for potential to provide a national blueprint for changing the way we deal with addiction.
Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli with Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello in Washington, DC.
Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli with Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello in Washington, DC.

Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago we reposted a message from Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, who announced a shift in how his department would be handling those afflicted with drug addiction as they are processed through the police department, going forward.

Here is a follow up to that post, which we will continue to follow as Manchester also grapples with addiction and recovery, and the anticipated launch of the Manchester Recovery Center on May 18.

Campanello then traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to appeal to lawmakers to support his efforts.

On May 18, Campanello made the following announcement via the official Gloucester Police Department homepage:

Message from the Chief:

Pleaspatch_for_printe read and share this — It is a mere two weeks since the Facebook post regarding Gloucester Police Department’s new approach to dealing with the disease of addiction. With the support of 2.1 million people we have made incredible progress, as evidenced by the news below. We aren’t stopping there. Within a week, we will have another major announcement regarding this initiative. It is all of you who are making this possible. As this program gains national attention, the more people are involved, the more leverage we have to make it work. The Gloucester Police Department, with the support of Mayor Theken, the City Council, Lahey, and Healthy Gloucester Collaborative are committed to continuing to spread this message.

I believe, with your support, we can get the dialogue continued and make a long term, sustainable impact on the opiate epidemic. We can save lives, we can change a system that treats a disease as a crime and we can change the stigma attached to this issue. Please join us.

Chief Leonard Campanello

As posted on the Gloucester, Mass., Police Department site

May 18, 2015 – Police Chief Leonard Campanello returned home Wednesday evening after a two-day trip to Washington, D.C. with support from government leaders and word that Gloucester may soon receive a financial boost from the State for his new drug policy.

State Senator Bruce Tarr, the Senate Minority Leader, has proposed allocating $100,000 to the revolutionary shift in police procedures for responding to drug addiction. The funds would be used for the development, implementation, monitoring and documentation of a pilot program in Gloucester and two other municipalities looking to implement a similar strategy.

Chief Campanello also continues to receive offers of support for The Gloucester Program from across the nation, including from both Massachusetts senators and Congressman Seth Moulton. He is also responding to requests from several states to speak about The Gloucester Program and help to implement it elsewhere.

“I am extremely encouraged by the outpouring of support that we have received, not only for Gloucester, but for that state as a whole, in taking the underlying principals to heart that drug addiction is a disease and police departments can take a more active role in reducing the demand for drugs, not just the supply,” Chief Campanello said. “My only hope is that this conversation continues and that we can create real change in our community and elsewhere.”

Chief Campanello proposed his new drug policy on May 5. The three-pronged Gloucester Program is designed to:

(1) give addicts who surrender drugs immediate help with detox and recovery without any legal action,

(2) put nasal naloxone in the hands of addicts, families, and caregivers to prevent overdose death, and

(3) offer addicts caught in possession of narcotics the chance to avoid any criminal record by immediately enrolling in and completing an inpatient recovery program, through a partnership with the district attorney’s office. Additionally, the plan call for a portion of federal criminal seizure money to be earmarked for addiction recovery efforts.

The initiative began with a citywide forum and a Facebook post by the Chief, which has now reached nearly 2.1 million people.

To gain national support and funding for his proposal, Chief Campanello flew to Washington to talk with our nation’s leaders on May 11 and 12. He was accompanied by Massachusetts State Representatives Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester).

In Washington, Chief Campanello also asked the members of Congress to earmark a portion of federal criminal seizure funds specifically for addiction recovery. None of the seizure funds are currently reserved for treating addiction.

Early Tuesday, Chief Campanello met with Senator Edward J. Markey a longtime champion of addiction recovery and the battle against heroin and opioids.

“Thanks to Chief Campanello’s leadership, Gloucester will continue to be a model for the compassionate and effective prevention of opioid overdoses. Chief Campanello is a model for police chiefs around the state and the country,” Markey said. “By viewing an individual as a potential patient with a substance use disorder, instead of treating them as a criminal, we have a chance at breaking the cycle of addiction and reducing both demand and supply of illicit drugs. I look forward to working with the Gloucester Police Department, and will fight for the resources Massachusetts needs to battle the prescription drug and heroin epidemic.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also met with Chief Campanello and voiced her support for the initiative.

“Chief Campanello and the Gloucester Police Department have shown strong leadership in tackling the opioid epidemic in the community,” Warren said. “Their approach to treatment is a model that has the potential to save countless lives. I will continue to support the work of local communities and the Commonwealth to address this pressing public health crisis.”

Chief Campanello, Rep. Wong., and Rep. Ferrante then met with staff from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, including Director Michael Botticelli, who expressed support for the Chief’s plans and a desire to continue working together moving forward.

US Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Mass
US Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Mass

On Wednesday, the Chief met Congressman Seth Moulton, and two held a press conference together on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building.

“The increase in opiate use in Massachusetts has become a public health crisis for our community, and Chief Campanello has proven that he is a leader, not just for Gloucester, but the entire nation, on treatment and prevention,” Moulton said. “This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. It is a serious national problem that is only getting worse. Chief Campanello is bringing forward a different approach. I can tell you there is a great deal of interest in what he is doing. I enjoyed meeting with him in Washington D.C. and look forward to continuing to partner with him in the future.”

During the press conference, Rep. Moulton stated that the Gloucester Plan should be a “national model” for other communities.

Back in Massachusetts, local business and community leaders continue to stand by Chief Campanello and his program.

“We know that drug dealers infect communities like a cancer and will destroy our society if we let them,” Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said. “At the same time, we understand that addicts – the victims of the drug trade – are left with very few resources and are often subject to arrest and prosecution when, in reality, they need compassion and treatment. I ask that you join us in supporting this effort to fight the demand for heroin and opiates. Together, we can save lives and make a real difference.”

“I commend Chief Campenello and his efforts to deal head on with the opiate epidemic,”Rep. Ferrante said. “The chief’s forward-thinking approach shows a clear commitment to helping those most in need in Gloucester and throughout the state and is something I am happy to support.”

“Chief Campanello has always been a true advocate and champion in his community advocacy efforts and police work,” Rep. Wong said. “His drug policy is something everyone can rally around to help fight this growing epidemic in the state.”

CVS joined the Gloucester Program by announcing that Nasal Narcan would be available for just $20 for those without insurance.

Additionally, Chief Campanello is starting to receive letters of support from Chiefs of Police Associations across Massachusetts. Yesterday afternoon, Chelsea Police Chief Brian A. Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City City Chiefs Association, wrote to the Massachusetts delegation in support of the plan. Marblehead Police Chief Robert O. Picariello, President of the Essex County Chiefs of Police, also expressed the organization’s support, in a letter stating:

“We look forward to exploring similar methods that fit the needs of our individual communities in order that we may join in the commitment to end opiate addiction by approaching the issue from diversionary police practices.”

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