PAARI Co-Founder Loses Nephew To Fentanyl Overdose

By Zachary Siegel 03/22/16

John Rosenthal discovered his nephew's opiate addiction one month after commencing the Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. 

Police-Assisted Addiction Initiative Co-Founder Loses Nephew To Fentanyl Overdose
Photo via Shutterstock

Last year, Gloucester police chief Leonard Campanello decided funneling drug users into treatment rather than jail was a better use of his department’s resources. The novel approach received national attention and attracted John Rosenthal, who is best known for erecting an in-your-face billboard that tallies gun violence. 

Campanello and Rosenthal eventually teamed up to form the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), which assists police departments around the country adopt policies that help rather than punish drug users. Since its inception, some 90 police departments in 23 states have adopted programming through PAARI. 

Rosenthal’s 34-year-old nephew, Nathan Huggins-Rosenthal, was in need of the services provided by PAARI. But sadly, he did not get help in time. He died last month of fentanyl poisoning. 

Chief Campanello expressed his utter shock over the news in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday morning. "When I asked John to join me in creating PAARI last spring, neither of us would have ever imagined that he would be burying his 34 year old nephew who recently graduated with an MBA from Suffolk University in Boston and was a successful stockbroker in Canada," he wrote on the Gloucester Police Department's Facebook page.  

According to, within a month of Rosenthal coming aboard Campanello’s rogue anti-crime policy, he discovered his nephew was struggling with an addiction to opiates, PAARI’s whole raison d'être.

Huggins-Rosenthal became addicted to the opiates he was prescribed for a back injury about five years ago, Rosenthal told, and eventually graduated to fentanyl—the opioid analgesic that can be anywhere from 40 to 50 times more potent than 100% pure heroin.  

When Rosenthal became aware of his nephew’s addiction, he tried to convince him to come to Gloucester, Mass., to find treatment through Campanello’s Angel Program. Sadly, Rosenthal’s nephew never made it.  

“Between the stigma and the shame, he didn’t want to put it on me,” Rosenthal said. “And didn’t want to come to a police station, like historically, many people have felt. We’re changing that,” he said optimistically. 

Huggins-Rosenthal eventually did enter treatment closer to home, Rosenthal said. But he was quick to note that it lasted only 60 days. “It’s lifelong treatment,” Rosenthal said. “Like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. And no one argues with that. No one stands in the way of providing lifelong treatment for people with chronic diseases.”

“Nathan's life struggling with aggressively marketed and legally prescribed opioids, addiction and ultimately death by an overdose, is truly an example of a failed healthcare system that must be changed. And a stigma that must be eliminated,” said Campanello.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.