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Small Town Takes Radical Approach to Addiction Treatment

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Jails and prisons across the country are literally overflowing with inmates who are serving sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

Federal data from July 2013 found that nearly 47 percent of those incarcerated were behind bars for federal drug offenses. In many cases, these people were also suffering from drug addiction at the time of their crimes. While there has been fervent debate on both sides, one town in Massachusetts has adopted a groundbreaking approach to this issue.

Treatment Versus Incarceration

The police department in the town of Gloucester announced a three-pronged program to treat and help addicts instead of punishing or jailing them.

Gloucester’s plan includes the following:

  • Addicts who surrender drugs will receive immediate help with detox and recovery, without any legal consequences.
  • Those who are caught possessing narcotics will be able to avoid jail time or a criminal record by enrolling in an approved inpatient recovery program.
  • Addicts and their loved ones will now have greater access to the overdose antidote known as naloxone. Gloucester police will pay for the cost of this for those who don’t have insurance.
  • The plan also calls for a portion of federal criminal seizure money to be earmarked for addiction recovery efforts that include supplying naloxone.

Reducing the Demand

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said in a statement that “drug addiction is a disease and police departments can take a more active role in reducing the demand for drugs, not just the supply.”

So far, their plan has been met with interest and support across the country. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has even proposed allocating $100,000 to the pilot program.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican problem,” said Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA). “It is a serious national problem that is only getting worse. Chief Campanello is bringing forward a different approach. I look forward to continuing to partner with him in the future.”

Addressing the Issue at Hand

Massachusetts has always been on the more progressive side of addressing drug addiction. They’re currently considering eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and have proposed creating two new high schools for recovering addicts.

It’s safe to say that the current approach of incarcerating drug addicts isn’t working. Although there isn’t a singular way to address the problem, using brand new methods to look at addiction recovery is something that should be supported by everyone on all sides of the issue.

Additional Reading: Treating Opiate Addiction as an Emergency

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