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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      11-01-15 | By

      Massachusetts On the Forefront of Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment

      It's Not A Crime To Be Addicted.-

      The criminalization of drugs has led to the dehumanization of people who struggle with substance abuse, dependency and addiction.

      In the United States, there is a conflicting view concerning drug addiction. On one hand, we recognize it as a legitimate illness for which there are respected and evidence-based treatments. On the other hand, we are quick to cast addicts in the role of conniving criminals who are plotting ways to use and abuse society and the people around them in order to score their next fix.

      The truth is, drug abuse is a true epidemic of an illness that is sweeping the nation and the world. This is a life and death issue that affects everybody and every part of society. Addiction and its effects do not discriminate, and it afflicts the rich and poor, male and female and young and old. Whether or not a person struggles with addiction, cares for someone who does or has never encountered this issue whatsoever in their lifetime, addiction is like throwing a pebble into a pond. It has an epicenter of impact, which ripples far and wide with nuanced and complicated implications. Addiction affects:

      • Families and friends
      • Communities
      • Medical care
      • Public safety
      • Public funds
      • Environmental health

      Prosecuting the Sick

      If a public policy were enacted that required the jailing of all people discovered to have cancer, public outrage would boil over. However, as a society, we take a despotic and rather economically biased view of addiction. Individuals who are affluent are usually far more able to avoid prosecution and jail time, instead receiving inpatient treatment. People who struggle from addiction and have a lack of monetary and social resources are more likely to be arrested and jailed, meaning that they are primarily denied treatment for a medically recognized illness.

      A police chief in Gloucester, Massachusetts has started to change attitudes about handling overdose incidents and drug-related arrests. Chief Leonard Campanello is turning heads with his progressive stance on this illness by providing access to treatment for any citizen who requests such services at a police station in his jurisdiction. Chief Campanello has worked as a police officer for over 20 years, and has had many experiences with addiction that has humbled and changed his view on the role law enforcement should play during drug related calls.

      To be considered for this new program, the person requesting help must not have any outstanding warrants or serious criminal convictions. A trained individual sits with the addict, keeping them as comfortable as possible until the complicated process of detox and rehab admission is complete. People are also given cheap and easy access to the drug Narcan, which helps to reverse the effects of opiate drugs. By providing a chance at equal access to detox, rehab and lifesaving remedies, Chief Campanello has become an unlikely champion for the rights of addicts by letting the influence of law enforcement help to reduce the shame and silence surrounding this most stigmatized illness.

      Massachusetts- Spearheading America’s Evolving Stance on Addiction

      Opiate use, including prescription narcotics and heroin, has skyrocketed to mind-boggling proportions over the past few years. Estimates point to the fact that nearly 3 million Americans suffer from opioid addiction, while death from overdose has become the leading cause of accidental death in the country.

      In particular, the state of Massachusetts has been especially hard hit by this form of addiction. In 2004 the governor of Massachusetts was prompted to declare opiate abuse as a public health emergency. It had caused so many deaths that it officially became a crisis.

      The city of Boston is now considering adopting Chief Campanello’s plan. It’s an important step for a major metropolitan area to realize that opiate addiction is not something that can jailed out of people; instead it is a medical problem that requires medically based solutions. It’s not plausible, humane or remotely intelligent to punish people for being ill and expect them to be released from prison as law-abiding and productive citizens. Although Chief Campanello’s compassionate policy has prompted an influx of people seeking help and treatment, the stations struggles to find enough availability in acute detox facilities and long-term rehab programs. Getting people in to request help is only half the battle.¬†Many people can’t travel outside of Boston for alcohol rehab, and their option are limited. It’s an entirely different war to wage when attempting to find insurance or other payment options to address this as it must be fought, which is one individual at a time.

      The notable developer John Rosenthal has paired with Chief Campanello to create a nonprofit organization called the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. The organization has accrued a sizable list of treatment facilities who are willing to work toward ending this public health crisis by volunteering extra bed space for increased treatment admissions, but Rosenthal is challenging other entities to step up to the plate as well. Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers can all play a crucial role in effectively reducing opiate abuse.

      A Deceptively Easy Solution to a Public Health Emergency

      Public attitudes towards addiction have been shifting over the past few decades. More people are realizing that drug laws are draconian and racially and economically biased, making them a true detriment to society as a whole. If resources were to be adequately expanded to provide help to everyone who wants it, imagine the differences we might see. But some people have one simple query: what about the law?

      It’s clear that the constituency of Massachusetts has a desire for compassionate policing with less serve repercussions for those facing drug-related arrests and charges. However, a police officer’s job is not to cast judgement upon the offender, but to detain them in accordance with current laws. While the communities in Massachusetts overwhelmingly seem to support leniency in prosecution while favoring access to treatment, the laws concerning drug use and possession are still quite stringent.

      Chief Campanello and Rosenthal are keeping an eye on their initial rehab program attendees, hoping that they stay clean for good. If so, the organization will have good reason to infer that crime rates will go down as addicts heal. Less people using drugs means fewer desperate and criminal acts committed to obtain money for a fix, increasing public safety and reducing many costs in the public sector. In the meantime, we can at least laud Chief Campanello for going out on a limb to challenge deeply entrenched beliefs and stigmas surrounding addiction. He has initiated a constructive and dynamic conversation that centers upon America’s newest public enemy – opiate addiction. With millions of lives potentially at stake, this is one conversation that we must all be privy to.


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