Massachusetts Police Chief Is Waging A One-Man War Against Heroin

Leonard Campanello is at the heart of a "tipping point" in law enforcement's approach to the opioid epidemic.
In this July 10, 2015, photo, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello speaks to The Associated Press in Gloucester, Mass.
In this July 10, 2015, photo, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello speaks to The Associated Press in Gloucester, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

After years of watching the number of opioid overdoses in his city soar, Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Chief Leonard Campanello decided it was time to try something different.

Earlier this year, after his city of about 30,000 saw its fourth fatal overdose, he took to the police department’s Facebook account and announced that Gloucester would begin offering amnesty to any addict who comes to the police station, hands over their stash and agrees to get treatment. 

In a new story for Boston magazine, Chris Sweeney reports on how Campanello’s rallying cry has resonated across the state, nation and world, and how it could serve as a “tipping point” for Massachusetts, home to one of the nation’s most active drug markets -- namely, a shift toward treating addiction as a disease rather than a criminal offense. 

According to Sweeney, 145 people have come to Campanello to get help, “fewer than half of them” Gloucester residents, and all of them have been placed into treatment. The initiative is still too young to know whether it will reduce overdoses or readmission rates -- some participants have already relapsed -- but other police departments are heeding his call and bringing the “Gloucester model” to their own towns.

Meanwhile, Campanello’s battle continues. While many other media outlets have reported on the police chief's crusade in recent months -- he was prominently featured in WBUR's recent series on opioid addiction -- Sweeney's story digs into his criticism that insurance companies contribute to the problem through their "apathy and whininess."

The police chief is also targeting pharmaceutical firms for their role in the epidemic. In another Facebook post published last month, he also urged the police department’s followers to contact the leadership the pharmaceutical companies to ask them what they are doing about opioid overdoses. As reported, his message has been hard -- he will be meeting with Pfizer.


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