The Scarborough Police Department debuted Operation HOPE early in October, offering opiate addictions a program to help them to find the resources that they need to turn their lives around. A month later, early reports are showing that this new program is proving to be a success in their communities. With 57 addicts coming to the program site seeking help, Police Chief Robert Moulton sees great progress for combating the opiate epidemic.
The Scarborough program was created using similar methods to a program that was created in Massachusetts, and was spearheaded by Officer John Gill along with crime analyst Jaime Higgins. Operation HOPE, which stands for Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort, creates a partnership between treatment facilities and law enforcement. While drug dealers will continue to be arrested, addicts who surrender drugs, or drug paraphernalia, will be able to do so without fear of being arrested. This sort of cooperation will provide more opportunities for those who are seeking to change their habits, which is needed for addicts in Scarborough as the addiction rate soars.
The abuse of opiates and heroin has been growing throughout southern Maine and the rest of the state. The death rate for heroin overdoses has increased 714 percent between 2011 and 2014, with the increase of deaths related to fentanyl increasing 378 percent in the same time period. 85% of crimes in the Scarborough area are directly linked to drug use. The situation continues to become more dire every year, and drastic steps such as HOPE are needed to offer help.
In fact, Operation HOPE is well supported by the community as it is funded by donations instead of tax dollars. Their major funding source is Project G.R.A.C.E. who firmly believe in HOPE's mission. They receive calls from all over Scarborough, from families of addicts to addicts themselves who are seeking help. And those people are now receiving the support they need, as 36 out of the 57 who have come to Operation HOPE have been placed in treatment facilities throughout Maine, Connecticut, Florida, California, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
With the program doors open to anyone in Maine, Operation HOPE is expecting to see an influx of people seeking help. Currently they have addicts seeking help who have come from as far away as Kittery and Caribou. For those who have felt hopeless in the past, this program is a shining beacon, especially for those who do not have insurance. While the program is reporting how well it is doing right now, the entire department knows that it is just a temporary fix on a larger problem. Eventually, the funding and the access to treatment beds will dwindle and they need to be prepared when that happens.
"There needs to be a statewide solution that is comprehensive," stated Moulton. Forums are being held this month regarding Operation Hope that include state legislators, elected officials, and family members of those who have been served by the program. Hopefully this will create the sort of goodwill that is needed to motivate the state to provide more services to address this epidemic.