Gloucester ANGEL Program
- Need: To address opioid addiction as a disease rather than a crime in rural Massachusetts.
- Intervention: The Gloucester Police Department initiated an opioid outreach program to help facilitate treatment for people suffering from addiction.
- Results: The ANGEL program has referred over 400 people to treatment facilities, reduced the cost of overnight incarcerations, and has developed a new bond with the community in the fight against opioid abuse.
Many times, police officers find themselves solely focused on disrupting the supply-chain of drugs. This unfortunately leads to arresting as many, if not more, drug users than drug dealers. Arrest, prosecution, and prison terms have done little to decrease the demand of painkillers and heroin, as these tactics do not address the disease of addiction.
When the rural community of Gloucester, Massachusetts pleaded for a solution to treating people instead of punishing those suffering from addiction, Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced a change in how law enforcement would react to the disease. On June 1, 2015, the Gloucester Police Department began its ANGEL program to address the needs of any person requesting help with their opiate addiction.
Under the ANGEL program, any person in the community can walk into the Gloucester Police Department seeking immediate treatment for an opioid addiction without fear of retribution. If the person is in possession of drugs or paraphernalia such as needles, they will not be charged, and items will be properly disposed of. Participants screened into the ANGEL program are assisted by volunteers or “angels” consisting of already existing police staff. These angels complete intake forms on participants, connect with treatment centers, and facilitate transportation or anything else a participant may need in their transition to recovery. At all times, angles treat participants with respect, care, and compassion as they reassure assistance will be provided. Moreover, the Gloucester Police Department assists in distributing Narcan, a life-saving opioid reversal drug, into the hands of anyone that may ask for dosages.
This simple approach to connecting people with addiction to treatment facilities expanded into the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PARRI). Over 100 police departments in 24 states and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police have come together to work on treating opioid addiction. In addition, PARRI partners with about 250 treatment facilities in 30 states. PAARI also facilitates treatment options for states that don’t have great insurance coverage or treatment availability.
Funding for the project is minimal. However, funding for transportation, copayments, or basic necessities is supported through Asset Forfeiture Funds. These are seized assets that were used to facilitate federal crimes, such as drug money from drug dealers. The monetary assets are distributed to police departments for funding and services such as the ANGEL program.
According to the Gloucester Police Department, ANGEL offers the following services:
- Participants complete a Gloucester Police Department ANGEL intake form and sign a program participant agreement form. Names are kept confidential.
- If any drugs and/or drug equipment are turned over they shall be documented on the in-take form and upon completion of documentation, properly disposed of.
- On-call behavioral health services for patient evaluation if necessary
- Contracted state transportation to facility or airport
- If the participant is unable to be placed after exhausting all possible methods, the participant is not to leave without being given a plan to continue with help. The participant is offered every courtesy to find them a safe place upon departure.
An extensive description of the Gloucester ANGEL program can be found in their official policy document.Exceptions to services
- The subject has an outstanding arrest warrant
- The subject has three or more drug-related convictions on their criminal record and if at least one of those convictions were from possession with intent to distribute, trafficking, or drug violation in a school zone.
- The officer or Watch Commander expresses the reasonable belief that the ANGEL could be seriously harmed by the subject
- The subject is under age 18 and does not have parent or guardian consent
- If the subject presents with any signs or symptoms of withdrawal or any other clear medical conditions at the time of intake, he or she will be immediately transported to Addison Gilbert Hospital.
Thanks to the ANGEL program, a new trust has been formed between police and a demographic of the community historically deterred from police interaction. This intangible, but highly relevant, outcome has helped the public and the police unite in solving the opioid crisis within the community.
In roughly a year since the program began, the ANGEL program has accomplished:
- 435 patients referred to treatment
- 75% reduction in overnight incarceration costs
- Reduction in overdose fatality rates
- Reduction in desperation crime (crimes such as breaking and entering and shoplifting)
- Reduction in ancillary crime related to addiction
- In May 2016, the ANGEL program was recognized by the White House "Champions of Change" initiative.
Given that Gloucester officers created and maintain the program in-house, there was a learning curve when trying to understand how healthcare worked in Massachusetts. Most barriers or setbacks came from inefficiencies of operation due to not understanding the system. Eventually, partnerships with facilities and healthcare providers helped program leaders maneuver through the healthcare industry.
Don’t overthink the program, and just do what you can. If a comprehensive program is undoable, try some of the following:
- Offer training for the use of naloxone and work on distributing the drug to all wanting parties
- Pass out pamphlets on drug information and where treatment is available
- Create safe spaces for narcotic and paraphernalia disposal programs
- Promote policies that treat addiction as a disease and adopt the that those suffering from it need help
- Take note that the de-stigmatization message is much more important than the particular program
PAARI offers a "how to" guide for police departments wanting to start an opiate outreach program.
John M. Guilfoil, Media Relations
Gloucester Police Department
Criminal justice system
Illicit drug use
Prescription drug abuse
May 16, 2016
August 9, 2017
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.