I came across a story regarding a police initiative to combat the escalating prescription opioid abuse that is affecting communities in the US (and Australia) and which is causing family destruction and tying up unnecessary police resources at a very high cost for government.
The story is really quite inspirational and may have application within Australia, and demonstrates the effect that just one person can have in developing an idea whose time has come.
And this person has succeeded in gaining the attention of the highest paid CEO of the largest pharma company in the world to point out the errors of his ways and to become part of the solution.
If you think it worthwhile, spread the word through any of your contacts and maybe there could be a good news story for pharmacy in there as well.
In an unusual police initiative in the US, Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Chief Leonard Campanello created a police-led program that was invented to bridge the gap between the police department and opioid addicts seeking recovery.
This initiative gained broader appeal among a number of police departments and an organisation titled the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I) was formed to share information and provide support to local police departments as they worked with opioid addicts.
Rather than arrest their way out of the problem of drug addiction, P.A.A.R.I. committed police departments to:
* Encourage opioid drug users to seek recovery
* Help distribute life saving opioid blocking drugs to prevent and treat overdoses
* Connect addicts with treatment programs and facilities
* Provide resources to other police departments and communities that want to do
more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic
* Work with educators and clinicians to study the effectiveness of this unique law
For decades, municipal police officers have been on the front lines of the war on drugs.
Until now, they have been solely called upon to attempt to disrupt an ever-increasing supply chain.
That meant police officers often found themselves arresting drug addicts as much, if not more so, than drug dealers and traffickers.
In most cases, the addicts were only guilty of possessing an illegal, life-ruining substance and they faced arrest, prosecution and prison terms.
In the meantime, heroin and opioid addiction has become a severe public health concern in the United States, destroying and often ending lives.
In 2015, Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Chief Leonard Campanello developed a revolutionary new way to fight the war on drugs by doing something about the demand, not just the supply.
Under his plan, drug addicts who ask the police department for help will be immediately taken to a hospital and placed in a recovery program.
No arrest. No jail.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.RI) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the Gloucester Police addiction initiatives, to aid other police departments to implement similar programs, and to foster a dialogue around the unique opportunity for police departments to take direct action against the disease of drug addiction in their communities.
Working in conjunction with the medical community and science-based recovery programs, police departments can make a difference in their communities by saving lives from drug overdoses, reducing the number of drug addicts and opioid drug demand, thereby devaluing a seemingly endless drug supply.
They also work to work to remove the stigma associated with drug addiction, turning the conversation toward the disease of addiction rather than the crime of addiction.
They also work directly with treatment centers to secure scholarships and fully-funded in-patient programs for addicts while working with police departments, pharmacies, and families to put nasal Narcan into as many hands as possible, recognizing that while it is not a panacea, Narcan can save the life of an overdose patient and give that person another opportunity to get into treatment and fight their disease.
To improve their outreach the Gloucester Police Department has established a website on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GloucesterPoliceDepartment?fref=nf
which is creating engagement with the local community and a lot of goodwill.
In one interesting initiative the Gloucester Police Department had a tilt at Big Pharma manufacturers of the opioids causing the problems (oxycodone).
The department bemoaned the city’s drug problem and took aim at Big Pharma’s role in creating addiction through prescription opioid painkillers.
Chief Campanello decided to list the salaries of the CEO’s of the top 5 pharma companies and prepared a community campaign around the drugs causing concern in the community and their lack of responsibility.
The Big Pharma salaries were as follows:
5. Eli Lilly– John Lechleiter $14.48 email@example.com 317-276-2000
4. Abbott Labs– Miles D. White $17.7 firstname.lastname@example.org 847-937-6100
3. Merck – Kenneth C. Frazier $25 million + cool private email@example.com 908-423-1000
2. Johnson & Johnson – Alex Gorsky $20.38 firstname.lastname@example.org 732-524-0400
1. Pfizer – Ian Read $23.3 million email@example.com 212-573-2323
The department also urged people to politely press the CEOs about their companies’roles in the statistic that 80% of drug addiction starts with “gateway” legal painkillers.
Indeed, the FDA just approved opiate use for children even though states where medical marijuana is legal have seen a 25% drop in painkiller deaths.
And, a major review last year found that pharmaceutical painkillers cause more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
The department’s urging worked.
Someone from Pfizer called to meet with them and people following the Facebook page are awaiting the results.
Drawing more cheers, the Chief wrote:
Pssst….Pfizer called (honestly)…we are meeting with them. When you continue to make your calls, thank them because they could have ignored us all. Instead, within 48 hours..they responded. We’ve got Mass Assisted Health Plans at the table (MAHP). They’re doing good things. Treatment Providers are removing barriers daily. More police agencies are signing onto to PAARI.
This is not because of us, this is because of YOU.
Addiction is a disease.
No way we are arresting someone who comes in for help.
No way are we judging anyone.
People with addiction are doing their part every day by walking into the police station and asking for help.
We’ve proved there are beds. We’ve facilitated nearly 200 people into treatment in 3 1/2 months. We are seeing a reduction of addiction related ancillary criminal complaints.
Now we’ve reached providers, insurance, and pharma is starting to come onboard.
Next up: Prescription Monitoring System interconnectivity between states, education and sanctions for MD’s who would continue to blatantly overprescribe, and finding out the relationship between legislators and health care…hmmm. We’ve said it before…if law enforcement can step up and say “We’re sorry…we should have done this years ago” then so should everyone else. There are entities who have to admit things were approached incorrectly and take part in correcting the system. If they do that, law enforcement has no issues with them. We don’t want to be in the health care business…but we are really good at holding people accountable.
With your support…this is becoming a change in the conversation.
You all are truly pioneers in this and we are so proud to be part of your voice.
Another initiative by Chief Campanello was to organise a national return for unused prescription medicines – an initiative Australian pharmacists can be proud of.
Evidently the US have not had such a service.
And in another recent initiative I noticed on the Facebook site, the Gloucester Police will offer citizens Police Academy access to show them the other side of the counter.
I noticed it contained a segment on domestic violence policies as mentioned by the attorney for domestic violence charges and wondered whether a “grass roots” equivalent here in Australia might be one way of dealing with our shocking statistic of one woman murdered every week.
And maybe pharmacy could be involved because of its “friendly face”.
GLOUCESTER — Chief Leonard Campanello announces that Gloucester Police Department will host a free Citizens Police Academy next month for interested residents.
Classes will begin on Oct. 27 and run for the next four weeks on Oct. 29, Nov. 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 18 from 6-8 p.m. on the second floor of the police station in the court room.
The course is designed to bring citizens into the station and give them a clear picture of what it’s like to be a Gloucester Police Officer. Participants must be 18 or older.
As part of the academy, Gloucester Police will inform students about domestic violence policies, motor vehicle laws and accidents, patrol procedures, firearms awareness, juvenile-related drug issues, and many other topics relevant to police work. Participants will also get to experience a ride along and tour the Middleton House of Correction.
“We want to give the community a chance to come into our station and learn about all aspects of what it means to be a police officer in Gloucester,” said Chief Campanello. “This will be a valuable and fun experience for all those involved, so we encourage anyone who is interested to sign up.”
Residents who wish to attend should complete and sign the application. It can be dropped off at the front desk of the police station.