A new nonprofit organization founded jointly by Boston-area businessman John Rosenthal and Gloucester police Chief Leonard Campanello has been launched to raise money and support the Gloucester Police Department’s approach to fighting opioid addiction through treatment programs, and without arrests.
Campanello and Rosenthal — a Gloucester resident who is president of Boston-based Meredith Management and the founder and chairman of other nonprofit groups such as Friends of Boston’s Homeless and the Stop Handgun Violence organization — teamed up Tuesday to announce the debut of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) with an eye toward supporting Gloucester’s anti-drug addiction program and extending it to other communities.
Under the Gloucester program, developed by Campanello and launched June 1, any addict who goes to the Gloucester police station, asks for help and turns over any drugs or paraphernalia is not be arrested for possession, but instead is paired with a volunteer “angel” who will lead the addict into a treatment and recovery program.
As of Monday, the program had taken in 17 people, steering them first to Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital and then, in several cases, into other treatment and recovery centers that have partnered with the Police Department program. The Gloucester initiative also includes making the anti-overdose drug nasal Narcan more accessible to the public through local partnerships with Conley’s Drug Store, Walgreen’s and CVS.
The announcement of PAARI lists Campanello and Rosenthal as co-founders, with Rosenthal as chairman of its Board of Directors and Campanello as a board member. Other chief officers include Richard Caturano — a Gloucester resident, and partner in the Boston Office of McGladrey LLP, the fifth largest U.S. accounting firm — as treasurer. Zoe Grover, executive director of the Boston-based Stop Handgun Violence, is secretary, while the board also includes Laura Sen, who is president and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. and also lives in Gloucester, according to Gloucester Police Department spokesman John Guilfoil.
Guilfoil, who heads his own public relations company and has worked with Campanello on the anti-opioid project from the start, is listed as PAARI’s executive director. The organization, which is headquartered in Newton where Meredith Management has its offices, has applied for and is awaiting Internal Revenue Service approval for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.
Rosenthal, whose Meredith Management company is the developer of Boston’s $550 million Fenway Center project that would create new residential, office and retail space over state land straddling the Massachusetts Turnpike, told the Times in a phone interview that he reached out to Campanello almost immediately after he first learned of the chief’s move to shift the focus of heroin and other opioid policing from criminal enforcement to treatment.
“When I contacted him, I said ‘Bravo’ and ‘How can I help?’” Rosenthal said. “We got together for coffee, and — four weeks or so later — here we are.”
“I’m a firm believer that business people, working with individuals and with government, can solve any problem that exists by working together,” Rosenthal said, citing strides he’s seen in tackling the issues of homelessness and handgun violence.
“This Gloucester initiative is exciting, it is innovative, and it will save lives — it already has, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “And it can literally change national policy with respect to treating opioid addition as an illness and a disease versus crime.
“This whole idea is a game-changer,” Rosenthal said. “And PAARI will be a vehicle for people in the business community as well as any citizen to literally plug into the solution of opioid addiction and become a part of it.”
Rosenthal said he has already reached out to business partners and other contacts to launch fund-raising for the project, with an eye toward financially backing both the Narcan coverage and the treatment programs.
Campanello last month drew support from federal lawmakers and others on a trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the use of federal drug forfeiture funds to support the program, but that prospect remains uncertain. So, too, is the $100,000 sought by state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr to back elements of the Gloucester program and extend it to two other unnamed Massachusetts communities. That money is included in a state budget amendment that is now before a joint budget conference committee at the State House.
Campanello and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken noted the benefits the nonprofit mechanism will bring to support the so-called angel program.
“This organization (PAARI) is the manifestation of the commitment of support we have received from so many organizations and leaders since beginning the angel program,” Campanello said.
“What has begun in Gloucester will now have the mechanisms and support systems to go farther,” Romeo Theken added.
Rosenthal said PAARI, accessible through its website paariusa.org, aims to extend the Gloucester program to other communities and other departments while building more partnerships for the program through health care and insurance providers.
“I am already incredibly heartened by the number of treatment centers that have stepped up — as well as Conley’s, CVS and Walgreens all now offering life-saving mediation (Narcan) at a well-reduced price,” he said. “These are prime examples as to how business people can help law enforcement and government solve a seemingly intractable problem.
“With the kind of support we’re seeing,” Rosenthal said, “we will save many lives and ultimately change national policy in addressing opioid addiction. That’s exciting.”
Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.