Another Massachusetts Town Takes Groundbreaking Approach to Drug Treatment

By McCarton Ackerman 07/16/15

Gloucester isn’t the only town in Massachusetts to take a new approach to addressing drug addiction.

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Gloucester isn’t the only town in Massachusetts to take a new approach in addressing drug addiction. The police department in the town of Arlington is now literally going door-to-door in offering substance abusers the help they desperately need.

Known as the Arlington Outreach Initiative, the Arlington Police Department has teamed up with a public health clinician to reach out to drug addicts. If they request it, addicts are given access to overdose reversal drug, Narcan.

The program is being funded with a $5,000 grant from the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, created by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello after his department’s unique efforts to address drug addiction made national headlines.

“Prior to the grant, we did nothing with the identities of the addicts. Frankly, we waited for them to go find a new dealer,” said Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan. “The difference now is that we’ve got the resources to partner up with a substance abuse organization. I have a whole list ... of people who we know are suffering from addiction. We’re now going to work with them and their families to ensure their survival.”

Ryan said his department will comply if an addict who they visit at their home asks them to leave, admitted that they would not accept help in most instances. However, he said that some addicts who initially refused help eventually came around after a few days or weeks. He remains convinced that the program will save some lives and said that his department has an obligation to do everything they can to prevent any of those addicts from a fatal overdose.

Meanwhile, Gloucester’s groundbreaking program includes giving addicts who surrender drugs immediate help with treatment, greater access to naloxone, and no potential legal consequences. Addicts caught possessing narcotics can also avoid getting a criminal record by enrolling in and completing an inpatient recovery program approved by the district attorney’s office.

Last May, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr proposed allocating $100,000 to the revolutionary program the town agreed on.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.