WATERVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Waterville Police chief Joseph Massey and Deputy Chief William Bonney announced Wednesday afternoon that the department will institute "Operation Hope," a recovery program for people suffering from substance abuse disorder, starting January 15, 2017.
Police officers will accept and destroy any drugs and drug paraphernalia a person brings to the police station. They will not charge anyone who seeks assistance for their substance use disorder.
Scarborough Police started their Operation Hope program on October 1, 2015, inspired by a similar program out of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
"We want to help those suffering from substance abuse disorder before they become offenders and resort to a life of crime due to their substance abuse," said Deputy Chief Bonney.
Bonney said that in the city of Waterville, Dela Ambulance service saw an 18 percent increase in NARCAN usage in the first three-quarter of 2016, compared to all of 2015. NARCAN is the brand name of the drug naloxone, which is used to help a person who is overdosing.
The program will use a three-pronged approach to address the opiate epidemic: enforcement, education, and a treatment.
The department is now accepting applications for volunteer "angels," people who will help coordinate treatment for those seeking it at one of the P.A.A.R.I. (the Police-Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative) recovery centers across the country.
"If we can save one life through this program, it has done its job," said Deputy Chief Bonney.
Bonney said the Scarborough program has served more than 200 people to date.
Officers Ryan Dinsmore and Chase Fabian will coordinate the program.
“What we’ve done in the past – it just isn’t working. This is another facet to what we are doing and will continue to do that will hopefully help these people that are addicted," said Officer Dinsmore. “We don’t know what to expect. We’ll take it one person at a time. Like the chief said, if we can help just that one person – we’ve helped them, we’ve helped their family and that’s a lot of people.”
Deputy Chief Bonney said there will not be any additional cost to the department, because people will either enroll in the program through their insurance, through private funds, or through scholarships from P.A.A.R.I.