Massachusetts Town Reforms Its Approach to Helping Opioid Abusers

Old fashioned police sign

(DGIwire) — If you walked into a police station in Gloucester, MA holding opioids any time after June 1, 2015, you wouldn’t be charged with a crime, according to The Christian Science Monitor. That’s because Police Chief Leonard Campanello is making a concerted effort to change how the town deals with drug addiction. Instead of being arrested, said the Monitor, Campanello is resolving to walk them through the system toward detox and recovery, assigning each opioid user an “angel” who will be their guide through the process.

The Monitor noted that the Gloucester police have received support from a pair of local hospitals that have agreed to prioritize treatment for users of heroin or other opioids when they enter the station. If a user doesn’t have health insurance, police will foot the bill— using money recovered in drug busts. It’s a great example of a department using drug laws to attempt to treat the real victims of drug use: the users themselves. In a Facebook post, Campanello emphasized the need for widespread change on a national level in how we help opioid users.

Gloucester, with a population of 30,000, has faced a significant opioid problem recently; the Boston Globe reports three fatal overdoses in the city between January and May 2015. Statewide, nearly 1,000 Massachusetts residents died in 2014 as a result of heroin or other opioids, according to the Globe. To put this in perspective, Massachusetts saw comparably fewer motor vehicle fatalities—326—in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available.

“It’s clear that we need to have a paradigm shift in how this country thinks about opioid addiction,” says Mark A. Sirgo, President and CEO of BioDelivery Sciences. The company developed a product for the maintenance treatment of opioid addiction called Bunavail. Additionally, the company has developed an important resource, called InReach™, which includes a website (inreachassist.com) and app. InReach, which went online in December 2014, offers a comprehensive array of information and resources to support patients and their families.* It helps identify personal goals and progress; track moods, triggers and medication; record appointments; and create boards of messages and photos to help keep users positive throughout the recovery process. InReach is not a substitute for a voluntary rehabilitation program.

Whether via innovative approaches such as InReach or through new kinds of policing, positive changes are afoot in how we guide those dealing with opioid addiction.

*InReach is not intended to substitute professional medical advice or to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool.

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