Should Maine follow Gloucester, Massachusetts’ lead on addiction treatment?

In June, Gloucester, Massachusetts police chief Leonard Campanello made a bold move by announcing that his officers would no longer arrest drug users seeking help.

Image- David Ryder, Reuters.

Image- David Ryder, Reuters.

Instead, the new game plan is to send addicts to treatment, and help pay for the costs.

According to Upworthy, who coupled with MSNBC to make the below video, Campanello said that since June 1, the Gloucester PD has placed 116 people in treatment.

“No criminal charges,” said Campanello, “All placed on the same day.”

In an effort to keep costs down, the police department was able to work out a deal with local pharmacies for Narcan, a life-saving detox drug that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose.

The resulting financial gains alone amount to program costs of less than $5,000.

Or, as Campanello said in the below Facebook post, “under $5,000… for 100 lives.”

Now, as the program continues to yield positive results, Campanello and his department are hoping to take the idea nationwide.

“It’s extremely important for a police department to treat all people with respect,” Campanello told Upworthy. “Law enforcement doesn’t exist to judge people.”

That’s a stark difference of strategies compared to Maine’s governor Paul LePage, who has blocked the expansion of the availability of Narcan in the past, and believes that the answer to the drug epidemic is to hire more drug agents- or even to call upon the National Guard– to arrest and punish addicts, rather than focus on increasing treatment and recovery options.

What do you think?

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.