Town Reports 17 People Have Accepted Treatment, Not Jail, for Giving Up Illegal Drugs

Two weeks after the Police Chief of Gloucester, Massachusetts launched a program to provide treatment for people who come to the police station with illegal drugs and paraphernalia, instead of arresting them, 17 people have accepted the offer.

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said the 17 people were abusing opioids including heroin, morphine and oxycodone, WBUR reports. He noted that the number, while modest, represents more than three times the number of people who have died of drug overdoses this year in Needham, a town of 29,000.

The program was launched on June 1. While no one asked for treatment on the first day, since then about one or two people a day have been asking for addiction treatment, according to Campanello.

“We need to get people into treatment,” he said. “If they fail, we need to get them into treatment again. Just keep trying. Arresting them or coercing them into treatment just doesn’t work.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he is considering adopting a similar policy, calling it a “great idea and a great pilot program.”

Program participants work with a clinician on a treatment plan and facility location, and are accompanied by a volunteer throughout the three-hour process. Many of the volunteers are people who formerly struggled with addiction, the article notes.

The program’s costs are paid for from the city’s drug seizure money. If participants are Massachusetts residents with no insurance, state funding covers the cost of treatment.