Gloucester, Mass., burdened for years with a stubborn drug problem, is embarking on what its police chief Tuesday called a fundamental, far-reaching shift in the way it addresses opioid addiction, reports the Boston Globe.

Working with Addison Gilbert Hospital, local pharmacies, and an on-call network of volunteers, Gloucester is poised to make its Police Department a gateway to help for drug addiction rather than a path to jail, Chief Leonard Campanello said at police headquarters.

"Addiction is a disease and should be treated as such," Campanello said. "As a community, we believe it's the right thing to do."

Many communities in Massachusetts, where more than 1,000 deaths were linked to opioids in 2014, have begun forming task forces and pooling resources to fight back. But in Gloucester, the Police Department's determination to play a leading role in treatment and recovery stands out.

Under the city's plan, addicts who seek help at the police station will be paired immediately with on-call volunteers — called "angels" — who will take them to an emergency room, if necessary, and help find detox, treatment, and other services afterward. The addicts will be allowed to leave drugs and paraphernalia at the station and not face criminal charges.

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