Police ‘Angel’ Program to Help Drug Users Still Thrives

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As Gloucester, Ma., police chief, Leonard Campanello pledged in 2015 that drug users could walk into the police station, hand over heroin, and walk out into treatment within hours — without arrest or charges. The concept of help rather than handcuffs became a national sensation, the Boston Globe reports. When Campanello left in October, under fire for allegedly lying to city investigators probing complaints by two women against him, questions arose about the program’s future. “It created some uncertainty,” said John Rosenthal, a developer and activist who is fighting the opioid epidemic.

Campanello no longer plays a role in the city’s Angel Program, but not only is it thriving in Gloucester, but the approach has been adopted by 200 police agencies in 28 states. “It puts police in the lifesaving business instead of the spin-drying business of arresting and releasing,” Rosenthal said. “We estimate that approximately 10,000 people have been placed into treatment.” The Gloucester model is being promoted through a nonprofit network co-founded by Rosenthal and Campanello. That organization — the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative — has been joined by law-enforcement agencies from California to Maine. The newest members will include all 26 police and sheriff’s departments in Macomb County, Mi., a populous county close to Detroit.

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