A novel drug addiction program developed in a small Massachusetts fishing town and since replicated in dozens of cities nationwide was able to place almost 400 addicts into treatment nearly each time they sought it during the first year of operation, researchers say in a report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Associated Press reports. The Boston Medical Center and Boston University’s School of Public Health say 376 addicts sought assistance 429 times from the Gloucester Police Department’s Angel program from June 2015 to May 2016. They received the help they needed nearly 95 percent of the time. Davida Schiff, a Boston Medical Center doctor and lead author of the report, said that rate is far higher than the 50 to 60 percent for similar, hospital-based initiatives.
Part of the reason is that Gloucester’s addicts were voluntarily coming to police seeking help. “They were motivated individuals that came to the station ready to engage in care,” Schiff said. The report notes that Gloucester police established a relationship with a local treatment center to make placement easier. Its officers were working round-the-clock to secure the placements. Massachusetts mandates health coverage for drug detoxification. Law enforcement officials in places that have adopted Gloucester-like heroin initiatives say the report helps validate their work. “Police officers do not get to pick and choose who they help, and that puts us in a position to make a major impact on the heroin and opioid epidemic,” said Frederick Ryan, police chief in the Boston suburb of Arlington. The Angel program has been replicated in some form by more than 150 police departments in 28 states since it was launched in June 2015. It got notoriety after the then-police chief promised heroin addicts they could turn in their drugs at the police station without fear of arrest, so long as they agreed to start treatment.