The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is making waves not only there, but in Boston and elsewhere. The small seaside town of 29,000 has been dealing with drug problems for a while now, and the police are finding that arresting users over and over again, or coercing them into treatment plans, isn’t working.
So they started the new program on June 1st, and within 16 days they’d already placed 17 addicts in rehabilitation plans. The program is simple: if a user shows up and turns in their drugs and paraphernalia of their own volition, they won’t face charges, and instead are placed in a treatment plan that can help them to overcome their addiction. They meet with a clinician who helps them design a plan that works, and are accompanied by a volunteer “angel,” often a former addict, who helps them through the three-hour meeting.
There is already a privately funded non-profit to back the program up, and so far the costs have come out of money the police seized in drug busts, and has totaled less than $1,000. The program doesn’t pay for treatment, but so far, participants without insurance have had their treatment covered by various facilities in the area. In addition, 22 facilities in 15 states other than Massachusetts have stepped up to help, offering free treatment for those without insurance.
Mayor Marty Wash of Boston has acknowledged the value of the program, and is considering putting something like it into effect in Boston, the largest city in New England. This could help set a precedent for drug treatment and enforcement across the country, something that is sorely lacking.
Although the scale may seem small, only 17 participants in 16 days, that’s already three times the number of people who dies from drug overdoses in Gloucester so far this year. Getting those people off drugs will help, and if the same success rate could be applied in larger communities, it could make a huge difference.