Lincoln County law enforcement has “bought in” to the idea of creating a county-wide program to connect addicts to treatment before addiction results in incarceration, officials said.
In a follow-up meeting to discuss implementing Project HOPE, or Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort, in Lincoln County on Tuesday, Dec. 29, Sheriff Todd Brackett, Damariscotta Police Chief Ron Young, and Waldoboro Police Chief Bill Labombarde said they were committed to putting their departments on the front line of connecting addicts to treatment without the threat of incarceration.
While the Scarborough Police Department has operated Project HOPE since October, the program in Lincoln County would be the first coordinated county-wide effort in a rural area, according to Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville. Access to 24/7 resources for addicts seeking assistance will be a major obstacle, law enforcement officials said.
“What do we do when someone approaches a patrol officer at 11 p.m.?” Labombarde said.
The Addiction Resource Center operates an outpatient clinic in Damariscotta, the sheriff’s office operates an outreach program which could also serve the pre-incarceration population, and LincolnHealth offers counseling.
However, the resources have limited hours. Officials asked who they could call after regular business hours and how they could ensure the next call they make does not fail. If law enforcement officers become the first call for addicts, they need to know who they should call.
These were questions with no easy answers. “We’re looking for a quick placement,” Brackett said.
Creating a list of available resources, identifying the gaps in services, and engaging the community to identify potential “angels” to act like sponsors in a 12-step program and help addicts on the pathway to recovery were next steps identified by law enforcement in implementing the program.
In their next meeting, law enforcement officials hope to meet with representatives from the Scarborough Police Department to better understand the procedure used in Scarborough and address lingering questions.
“Where’s this going to go?” Brackett said. Officials will not know until the program begins, he said.
While questions remain, Lincoln County law enforcement officials said they intend to launch an outreach program to addicts in the near future.
“We became police because we want to help,” Young said. “This will be another tool for police to use to do that with. When someone asks us for help, doing nothing is not an answer.”
Community members interested in becoming involved with the Project HOPE initiative in Lincoln County are encouraged to call the Addiction Resource Center at 563-2311.