On Tuesday, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen testified at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Acknowledging that the opioid epidemic is a health crisis that will take smart, creative ideas to fight, Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted the ANGEL program in Gloucester, Massachusetts implemented by Chief of Police Leonard Campanello. In Gloucester, any individual with an addiction can come into the police station to ask for help without fear of arrest or being charged with a crime. The Gloucester police will then facilitate the process of getting that individual into treatment as soon as possible, often taking less than just a few hours.
Senator Elizabeth Warren said ANGEL Initiative is a great example of local leaders understanding that it takes hard work and more importantly compassion to treat substance use disorders. To further stress that point, Commissioner Wen emphasized that we need to decrease barriers to accessing treatment and provide a no wrong door approach to those seeking treatment and help.
“We know that we’re not going to arrest our way out of addiction,” Dr. Wen said in her testimony. “Decreasing barriers into treatment is critical.”
The OSI-Baltimore Drug Addiction Treatment program invited Chief Campanello to Baltimore on Monday to speak with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and staff at Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore to explain the ANGEL Initiative as well as a similar program in Arlington, MA. Chief Campanello spoke that evening at the Talking About Addiction event hosted by OSI-Baltimore along with Major Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), stressing the importance of law enforcement to treat addiction as a health issue and not one of a legal or criminal issue.
Furthering her commitment to help tackle the opioid epidemic, later Tuesday evening Senator Warren had Commissioner Wen train her on how to administer naloxone, a life-saving drug for those experiencing an overdose. Senator Warren tweeted a picture, above. of the training.