The NIDA Blog Team
July 20 2015

Update on “Addiction itself is not a crime, it’s a disease.”

This post makes us think of the new Rachel Platten song lyric: “I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.”

Sometimes it just takes one person. One police department. One really good success story to open people’s eyes to the possibility of change. In May, we blogged about a Massachusetts police department’s revolutionary new approach to helping with people suffering from addiction. On June 1, the Gloucester, MA, police launched this program that focuses on helping people recover and not putting them in jail.

Many states have drug courts that monitor the treatment progress of people with addiction while keeping them out of jail. Gloucester’s ANGEL Initiative goes further by actively assisting those people with getting into treatment—even driving them to the place they get treatment—and helping them navigate the detox/recovery system. Gloucester has also made available a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose for people seeking treatment for their addiction.

We’re excited to report that their ANGEL Initiative has already seen a lot of success.

In its first five weeks, the ANGEL Initiative (named for its volunteer mentors, or “ANGELs,” who support people seeking treatment when the police station transports them to the health care facility) took in and placed in treatment 35 people with the disease of addiction.

A Community Responds

Joining the police are local, state, and national organizations that have gotten on board with the initiative. National leaders in business, health care, the public sector, and education have joined the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.)—a new nonprofit organization created by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello and businessman John Rosenthal—in response to the ANGEL program.

Part of P.A.A.R.I.’s mission is to continue the important work of ANGEL: It encourages opioid drug users to seek recovery, and connects those who are addicted with treatment programs. P.A.A.R.I. is also aiding other police departments in implementing programs like ANGEL. Boston’s mayor has even announced that the city may model a program of its own after the Gloucester initiative.

A State of Change

There is more good news for Massachusetts. The governor, Charlie Baker, announced recommendations that Massachusetts will put in place to prevent and treat opioid addiction. It will also increase access to recovery programs for those who need them. Their goal is to reduce opioid-related deaths in the state, which increased by one-third from 2012 to 2014, to an estimated 1,008 last year.

With this much success in just the first five weeks, we're eager to see how many more lives are saved in Massachusetts and other states making the shift from punishing to supporting those with addiction.

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