One Town's Shocking Response to Heroin Addicts


Gloucester Police Chief Lenny Campanello drew national attention when he announced that instead of charging drug addicts, he would offer them rehabilitation.

Lenny Campanello may be on to something. The Gloucester, Massachusetts police chief wrote a Facebook post announcing that addicts who find their way into the station, whether voluntarily or after an arrest, would not be charged with a crime. Instead, they would be welcomed with open arms and ushered into a rehabilitation program, a shocking shift in the way police view drug crimes.

Part of what was so revolutionary about Campanello’s announcement was that he used the word “disease” to describe drug addiction. The details of the detox and rehabilitation plan, which will go into effect on June 1, are still being worked out, but the announcement alone was enough to warrant over two million views.

Some people are skeptical that any drug user would voluntarily walk into the police department and turn in their drugs and paraphernalia, unless possibly they were accompanied by a friend or family member. Still, the program offers hope to a community that has been inundated with drug overdose deaths in recent years. The 30,000-resident community of Gloucester experienced four overdose deaths in the first three months of 2015.

Whether the plan works or not, Campanello says he is just glad there is attention on the epidemic, which is actually how many Gloucester residents refer to it. Some say it is difficult to walk down the street without seeing a single person who hasn’t been affected in some way by the opiate problem. “People die every day here,” said one Gloucester resident.

Gloucester is also revolutionary in terms of combatting drug addiction for another reason – it was the first city in the United States to equip both its fire and police departments with Narcan, an opiate-antidote that comes in the form of a nasal spray. Narcan is the brand-name of the prescription drug Naloxone, an option that has been considered to combat the drug problem in Ohio as well.

This small Massachusetts city is on the right track. We may very well be better off lowering drug crime rates through rehabilitation than we are by using incarceration. Koffel Brininger Nesbitt is an advocate for alternative treatment options and specialty drug courts for offenders. Contact our Columbus criminal defense law firm today if you or someone you love has been arrested for a drug-related offense.