The Kennebunk Police Department announced it is launching a new program aimed at combating the drug crisis by "coaching" those struggling with addiction.
The Recovery Coach training will arm officers with the tools necessary to connect with those individuals, get them the help they need and support them throughout the process.
"It's here," said Officer Kaitlyn Sawyer. "We're no different than any other community in the state of Maine."
Sawyer, who said she herself has lost friends to addiction, is the first officer in the department to take the course.
Acknowledging that there is a person behind the illness and relating to them on a personal level, is a key tenant of the training.
"It's something we need to start talking about," Sawyer said.
The free program is made possible by a partnership with Recovery Coach University in New York. It is entirely funded by $50,000 raised by nonprofit Above Board.
"Even though you may not have health insurance, you may not have access to transportation," Sawyer said. "We have an answer for that, and that's the whole point of recovery coach training."
A record-breaking 418 people died of an overdose in 2017. 180 people died in the first six months of 2018, according to the latest reports by the Maine CDC.
"We have to have a new approach," said Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie. "I don't rely on the federal or state governments to fix this. I think that we have to look at this as communities trying to solve this problem."
Chief MacKenzie said he believes the training partner is the first of its kind in the state.
He hopes it will reduce the cycle of incarceration and help build more support structures within the Kennebunk community.
"All the resources that we're building, I think we're headed in the right direction," Sawyer said.
The free, day-long program will be held from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. It is open to the public.