DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — After months of planning law enforcement officials in several Midcoast communities have signed an agreement with health care agencies to work together to combat drug addiction.

They based their program on Operation Hope in Scarborough, where rather than arresting addicts, police pledge to get them help. Finding space in treatment programs can be difficult, but that’s where this partnership will be different.

“We agree to work together to treat addiction as a health problem and to do so as much as possible right here in people’s own communities”, said Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Lincoln.

According to Maine Drug Enforcement statistics the Mid Coast has the highest number of heroin busts in the state.

To combat the problem police chiefs from four local departments and the Lincoln County Sheriff have signed an agreement to partner with local health care providers and others in the community to combat the problem. They pledge to work together to help people beat their addictions.

“Some first hand connection between our officers on the street and their resources that will perhaps help divert some of these people into treatment and away from our jail”, said Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett.

What makes this partnership unique, compared to other similar programs in Maine, is that this one will help those seeking treatment find it right here in their own community. Mid Coast Hospital has greatly expanded its treatment services the past several years.

“We have a standard when people call us and ask for help they shouldn’t have to wait for their first appointment any more than two to two and a half days”, said Eric Haram of the hospital’s Addiction Resource Center.