The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Changing police work
Trading handcuffs for health care

By Ryan Lessard

 As New Hampshire cities and towns look for new ways to deal with the state’s drug problem, some are looking at programs recently launched in neighboring states, prompting debate as to how involved law enforcement should be in leading addicts toward recovery.

Gloucester model
Many of the new ways police are dealing with the drug crisis in the region are coming from New Hampshire’s neighbor to the south: Massachusetts.
The Gloucester ANGEL Initiative is among the better-known programs — and perhaps more controversial — for essentially offering amnesty from arrest for any addict who turns himself in at a police station, surrenders his drugs and asks for help. 
Spokesperson John Guilfoil says police departments in the region and beyond have seen their appetites diminish for continuing to arrest repeat offenders who have drug problems. They watch the same trajectory unfold over and over, often with the addict ending up dead.
“Police just got sick of it,” Guilfoil said.
The program launched last summer, and while it may be working for Gloucester, local law enforcement officers who’ve looked into it aren’t convinced it will work.
“We’ve talked about it pretty extensively,” said Deputy Chief Michael Carignan of the Nashua police department. “We don’t feel that the Gloucester model is one that we would support.”
Carignan says New Hampshire doesn’t have the treatment infrastructure available to handle the demand yet. Plus, he said, it may not be legal to let someone off on a possession charge.
Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard agrees.
“Why would you invite somebody to come into a police station where he would otherwise be committing a crime by saying, ‘Come turn your drugs in?’” Willard said. “I think it’s a slippery slope.”
Willard says it would be an inequitable application of the law if an officer decides to direct an addict in possession of illegal substances to treatment and later in the day arrest an alcoholic for a DWI.
Tym Rourke, the chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, says there’s a growing recognition in law enforcement that efforts need to be made on the demand side of the drug trade and that addiction is a disease. But there’s still plenty of disagreement on how to go about it.
Rourke says Willard’s concern about the slippery slope is fair.
“I can’t speak for the law enforcement community, but I don’t have the sense that there’s a general consensus in the law enforcement community about the Gloucester model as a universally acceptable deployed strategy,” Rourke said. “Even in Massachusetts I have heard questions around whether or not the extent to which Gloucester is taking their model is really legally allowed.”
Putting aside the legal concerns over possession, Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood thinks Gloucester is doing a good job of helping addicts. He says the biggest barrier here is the availability of treatment.
Arlington model
Around the same time Gloucester kicked off its new program, the police department in Arlington, Massachusetts, started a program of its own. The Arlington Outreach Initiative doesn’t invite addicts to turn themselves in. Instead, detectives compile data on known addicts and hand the list of names and addresses to a social worker partnered with the police station. The social worker then knocks on doors and offers help getting the addicts into treatment.
Carignan in Nashua thinks the problem with a program like Arlington’s is twofold. He says New Hampshire doesn’t have enough social workers to handle the workload in the state, if the program were replicated in each police department, and using confidential police info to track down these addicts may seem proactive, but Carignan thinks it may violate privacy laws.
New Hampshire models
Meanwhile, Laconia police have budgeted one of their officers to be a “prevention enforcement treatment coordinator,” tasked with connecting overdose victims and their families with treatment resources. And in Manchester, work on a new full-service 24/7 recovery center, led by Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, in the heart of the city is under way. Willard hopes this would serve to separate law enforcement from the social services traditionally tasked with providing treatment.
“I think in the future this is going to be the model [for Manchester]. It’s not going to be the Gloucester model. We’re going to cut law enforcement right out,” Willard said.
He says he’s also not willing to take an officer away from regular public safety duties to work full-time on helping addicts, like Laconia is doing. 
Carignan doesn’t think Nashua is getting a large recovery center like what Manchester is planning any time soon. But he says his department is active in the drug court and Keystone Hall, the area recovery and treatment center.
Osgood says Concord is missing 15 percent of its police force, so he also can’t dedicate police officers to focus on treatment services.
“I’m struggling to staff just a regular day and evening shift,” Osgood said.
He said Hope for New Hampshire Recovery is poised to set up a recovery center in Concord as well and thinks that may cut police out of the equation like in Manchester.
What about PAARI?
While many local police are resistant to adopting programs that would represent radical change in policy, there is a supportive program gaining steam in the Bay State and spreading into other parts of the country, including New Hampshire. The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, or PAARI (pronounced parry), has grown rapidly since its inception last year, according to spokesperson John Guilfoil. He says several Massachusetts communities joined, and it has since spread to 18 other states. 
It began as a partnership between Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police Chief Leonard Campanello and prominent Boston businessman John Rosenthal. The program is meant to provide members with informational resources on treatment center availability and police best practices, according to Guilfoil.
He says many people confuse PAARI with the Gloucester ANGEL Initiative. But while they share the same key players — its co-founder is Campanello, and Chief Frederick Ryan of Arlington is a board member — they are two different things. PAARI is not a model for departments, but a support network for law enforcement officers who want to do more to tackle the demand side of the drug crisis. 
The Lakes Region town of Moultonborough is the first community in New Hampshire to join PAARI. So far, Moultonborough Police Chief Leonard Wetherbee said, it’s been working well.
Wetherbee says he is familiar with the new models in Massachusetts, having been the chief of police at Concord, Mass., for 17 years and personally knowing Ryan.
“I had many conversations with [Ryan] about [PAARI] and exactly what it was, what it brought to the table. And what it wasn’t is probably what sold me most on joining,” Wetherbee said.
He says there are no strings attached to joining.
“A lot of people think that by joining PAARI, you’re abandoning traditional law enforcement as far as dealing with this issue, and that’s not correct,” Wetherbee said. “These treatment centers who have also become affiliated with PAARI also have scholarships. They make beds available even if you don’t have insurance.” 

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