In an effort to help combat opiate addiction in Gloucester, Massachusetts, local police have put forth a plan that would offer opiate addicts the chance to get the help they need without having to face the consequences of drug possession criminal charges, reports Boston.com. In a unique approach that attacks heroin demand, rather than the heroin supply streams, Gloucester police are looking at the problem as people who have an addiction that need help rather than rampant criminal activity fueled by dark motives such as obtaining and distributing illegal drugs for profit.
People being charged with Massachusetts drug crimes is on the rise. Opiate addiction in Massachusetts is on also the rise, with more than 1,000 Massachusetts residents overdosing and dying last year. Specifically in Gloucester, four people have died this year already. These alarming statistics make opiate addiction something that needs to be dealt with.
The Gloucester plan is similar to the already existing diversion program, which enables addicts facing non-violent criminal charges to opt for enrollment in a drug treatment program in exchange for foregoing the charges against them. The results of the diversion program have been positive, with more than half of the participants successfully completing the program, and only 6% of those enrolled in the program going on to commit other crimes afterwards. Gloucester police hope to achieve similar results with their proposed opiate addiction plan.
How Is This Proposed Program Possible?
While all of the legal and procedural details of the Gloucester plan have yet to be fully fleshed out, the proposed plan will be funded in part by Lahey Health Behavioral Services, which recently received a grant for $4.8 million dollars to help frequent visitors of their emergency room facilities obtain the care and treatment they need to get better. Repeat opiate overdose victims could be eligible for funds through the program that would help them get through detox and rehabilitation.
The Gloucester plan also proposes to use seized drug money to purchase doses of Narcan, which is a drug that is used to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, and which can be administered free of charge, or at a low cost, to addicts who come to the Gloucester police station seeking help for their opiate addiction.
While the plan is untested and would be limited to the Gloucester police station only, there is hope for the program. The public and the Gloucester police seem to enthusiastically support the plan and, if successful, the program could go a long way toward reducing the number of opiate addicts, and thus the amount of opiate-related crime, in the area.
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