How a Local Police Chief Took on the Drug War

After 25 years of fighting a losing war on drugs and with a heroin epidemic raging in his home state of Massachusetts, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello decided to take matters into his own hands. He opened his police station’s doors to any addict seeking help, promising to get them into treatment. Writing for Boston Magazine, Chris Sweeney delves deeply into Campanello’s work, and the unlikely success of his initiative: in just three short months, 145 individuals have already come to Campanello seeking help. But first, the story of the Facebook post that started it all:

Campanello, heavyset with jowls and thinning hair, knew his limitations: just a small-town cop with a tiny budget and no power to enact laws. So on the morning of May 4, he logged into the biggest platform he had—the Gloucester Police Department’s Facebook account—and, for the first time, began typing out his defiant approach. Starting June 1, he wrote, “Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged.” Instead, he and his officers would help them get medical care. It didn’t matter what insurance you had, or whether you had insurance at all—Campanello promised to shred the red tape that entangled so many who sought treatment. “I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance,” he concluded in the post. “The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.”

He read the message over for typos, floated the cursor over the “Post” button, and clicked his mouse at 10:55 a.m. It instantly went viral, shared by more than 30,000 people, “liked” by 33,000, and viewed more than 2 million times.

Read the story