Back in June 2015, Gloucester, Massachusetts, police chief Leonard Campanello announced that his officers would no longer arrest drug users who approached them attempting assistance.
Instead, government departments announced they would refer the drug users to treatment, and front the cost.
Gloucester has been struggling to combat a big heroin problem.
“It’s a provocative notion to put out there, ” Chief Campanello told Upworthy, “But we knew we had to do something different.”
Needless to say, there were many questions about whether Campanello’s experiment would actually work.
How much money would it cost? Would it actually reduce the number of overdose demises? Would drug users actually trust the police, knowing that admitting to possession could technically get them apprehended at any time?
“I had a lot of skepticism, ” Chief Campanello said. “I didn’t know if we were going to get one person or a thousand people.”
After two months, the early results are in, and they appear promising. Very promising.
According to Campanello, since June 1, an impressive number of addicted persons have made use of the program :
“We’ve had 116 people placed in treatment, ” Campanello explained. “No criminal charges. All placed on the same day.”
In order to maintain expenses down, the police department managed to bargain down the cost of a life-saving detox drug from local pharmacies. Largely as a result, government departments estimates that the cost of the program in so far is less than $5,000.
Or, as Campanello put it in a recent Facebook post, “under $ 5,000.00 … for 100 lives.”
“We’ve constructed the partnership agreement with treatment centres, health plans, health providers, other law enforcement, and certain the public, which has overwhelmingly supported this approach, ” he told Upworthy.
As a result of the positive early signs, Campanello and his team are working hard to take the program nationwide .
As with any new program, there are still a few kinks to work out.
Even after the initiative took effect in June, the outbreak of overdose deaths in Gloucester hasn’t totally subsided. And given the outside-the-box nature of the program, there is still a lot of legal red tape to work through.
But progress has to start somewhere.
And 100 people who would otherwise be sitting in jail now have a chance to mend “peoples lives”.
“It’s extremely important for a police department to treat all people with respect, ” Campanello said. “Law enforcement doesn’t exist to judge people.”
With nonviolent drug users popping up in prison at alarming rates, it’s great to see evidence that when you treat addicted persons like people instead of criminals, good things can happen .
Read more: www.upworthy.com