Program Providing Treatment, Not Jail, for Those Surrendering Drugs Shows Promise

One year after it began, a program in Gloucester, Massachusetts that provides treatment instead of jail for those surrendering drugs is showing promise, according to WBUR.

The program lets people come to the Gloucester police department for help getting into treatment. Since it began, more than 400 people have gone to the city’s police for help. More than 100 police departments nationwide are implementing similar programs.

Last year, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello posted on Facebook, “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.” He said he started the program after witnessing a jump in overdose deaths and drug-related crimes, and seeing officers arresting the same people repeatedly.

In the first five months of last year, there were five fatal drug overdoses in Gloucester, compared with one in the first five months of 2016. Since the program was launched, Gloucester has seen a 27 percent drop in drug-related crimes.

Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health are studying the program participants. They have reached about 200 of the people who have gone to the Gloucester police for help in the past year. Almost 70 percent of participants completed a treatment program, early numbers suggest. Among the 100 people who answered a question about using drugs after first contacting police, 40 percent admitted to doing so.

“I think we are ultimately going to see that people who receive the kind of help that they’ve received by going into a police station, of all places, where people have treated them with respect and dignity — we think that people going through a program like that, with continuing support, are more likely to be successful in entering recovery than people who don’t get this kind of help,” Boston University public health professor David Rosenbloom said.

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