After a public hearing on May 2, the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department revealed a change to their policies for drug users in the area, specifically those who use opium and heroin.
In a post on the Department’s official Facebook page on May 4, Police Chief Leonard Campanello, a former narcotics detective, wrote about new regulations that the department will begin to implement starting June 1.
“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,” the post read.
The new policies are in response to more than 1,000 deaths last year from heroin overdoses through the state.
“The state’s report found that in 2014, 600 deaths were confirmed as opioid-related with an addition 408 expected to be linked to the powerful drugs. The total of 1,008 would appear to be the highest ever recorded in Massachusetts,” the Boston Globe reported.
On May 5, Chief Campanello spoke with Boston.com about the near epidemic occurring in his hometown.
“We’re committed to the idea of attacking the demand rather than attacking the supply,” he said.
While the chief could not state how much crime is connected to addiction in Gloucester, he still remained committed to defeating the problem.
Campanello added that opiate addicts are suffering from the same disease as cigarette smokers -- addiction.
"The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict are stigma and money," he said. "Petty reasons to lose a life.
“It’s big enough for us to change the fundamental way we deal with addicts and recognize it as a disease and not a crime, in and of itself, that deserves punishment,” he added.
Groups hailed the Chief’s decision, particularly with how his statements described the drug users.
“I think it’s amazing. He recognized addiction as an illness. People don’t enjoy being addicted to this stuff,” Joanne Peterson, the founder of Learn to Cope, a support group for drug addicts, told Boston.com.
Photo Credit: nemlec.com, Esquisite Photography/Flickr