In order to save lives Leonard Campanello took matters into his own hands.
She was Gloucester’s fourth fatal overdose of the year. Campanello, his dark eyes sagging with fatigue – seethed. Barely two full months into 2015, and the number of fatal opioid overdoses in his city had already surpassed last year’s toll.
This wasn’t a statistical fluke or a bad batch of heroin hitting town—this was the new norm.
For years first as a detective in Saugus and more recently as the chief in Gloucester Campanello had watched helplessly as the number of deadly overdoses in Massachusetts soared: 668 in 2012; 939 in 2013; 1,256 in 2014.
Each death put the limitations of traditional policing into sharp relief for the 47-year-old veteran officer.
In the late ’90s when Campanello was lead detective of Saugus’s first narcotics unit – Purdue Pharma had aggressively marketed OxyContin as a safe, less-addictive pain pill.
As the drug insinuated itself into affluent suburbs and sleepy farm towns small police forces throughout the country found themselves under pressure to choke off the supply of pills.
The war on drugs had undergone an abrupt about-face: Once, interdiction efforts had focused on keeping illegal drugs out of the country; now the drug responsible for a wave of addiction was being manufactured legally and prescribed by doctors – often at so-called pill mills masquerading as pain-management clinics.
Soon enough a thriving black market emerged. Street prices for Oxy spiked –
– when people couldn’t afford Oxy anymore they turned to cheap heroin.