By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell
I am pleased that the House of Representatives is currently closely reviewing legislation filed by Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante from Gloucester that will allow those suffering from addiction to go to their local police station for help without fear of being charged with drug possession.
There may be some modifications made to the bill, such as defining a limit as to what constitutes a “possessory” amount of opioid for immunity. The concern raised is that those trafficking whether addicted to opioids or not might try to take advantage of the measure to evade law enforcement. This is of particular concern in cases where low-level traffickers become aware that law enforcement is closely watching them so they can catch their wholesale suppliers who are caught by either following the supply chain or sometimes by making retail dealers an offer they cannot easily refuse.
Currently, police stations in the Commonwealth are allowed to collect unused prescription medication and ammunition.
Presently individuals reporting to the Gloucester police station for help with addiction are referred for treatment free from the fear of being criminally charged. According to Police Chief Campanello, approximately 400 individuals have been referred to treatment via this process thus far. The results have been positive with no negative unintended consequences noted.
There is no doubt that this initiative has resulted in a significant number of people both seeking and receiving help for a most horrible problem that doesn’t go away by itself. Consequently, Gloucester’s policy is being looked at for statewide implementation.
It is a harsh truth that we have been unable to prevent the widespread availability of opioids in this country. While this is not to say we should not pursue and prosecute commercial traffickers at every opportunity, reducing the demand side of the equation is a most critical component to winning this war. Treatment will also prevent needless casualties, a very great waste of human potential and life, to drugs.
This legislation holds great promise of successfully bringing people into treatment that fear being jailed and have otherwise given up on the hope that they can either find or afford treatment. Addiction in one form or another is the leading root cause of most crime in our communities and for repeated personal negative encounters with the criminal justice system. Effective treatment will help rehabilitate individuals far more effectively than incarceration and shall also better reduce the overall crime rate.
Since 2011, the Massachusetts Legislature has increased funding for fighting opioid addiction by 65%.
As always, I hope you will share with me your perspective on this most issue, or any other issue that is important to you.
Representative Campbell serves at the Vice Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and also on the Committee on Ways and Means. She can be reached at 617-722 2430 or Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov and at firstname.lastname@example.org.