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Law enforcement to partner with behavioral health clinicians to fight opioid epidemic head-on

The program launching in Augusta will place counselors alongside law enforcement as first responders to better assist those fighting substance use disorder.

AUGUSTA, Maine — New steps are being taken to help fight the opioid epidemic head-on. In Augusta, a behavioral health clinician will soon begin working alongside law enforcement in the Augusta Police Department as first responders in an effort to provide better assistance to those battling substance use disorder and prevent fatal overdoses in Maine. 

The program is being implemented with help from Crisis and Counseling Centers based in Augusta, which will work to embed substance abuse specialists into law enforcement.

“We are grateful for the Augusta Police Department leadership and willingness to partner on this initiative with us. Our long history of partnership will undoubtedly strengthen our ability to begin connecting the community to the help they need now,” said Heather Washburn, Director of Case Management Services for Crisis & Counseling Centers.

This program launches in direct response to the OPTIONS initiative launched by Gov. Janet Mills, which stands for overdose prevention through intensive outreach, naloxone, and safety.

The program will begin with an OPTIONS liaison working out of the Augusta Police Department, but coordinating with law enforcement bodies across Kennebec County. 

The OPTIONS liaison is expected to be responsible for engaging in post-overdose follow-up and helping with referrals, conducting proactive outreach to individuals and their families, delivering low-barrier harm reduction supports, and providing short-term counseling interventions when appropriate.

“The Augusta Police Department is so excited to partner with Crisis and Counseling and our OPTIONS Liaison to enhance our ability to provide the help to those in need. It has been a struggle at times in the past to connect our community members with these lifesaving resources and we are confident this program will make a difference,” said Augusta Chief of Police Jared Mills.

Jasmine “Jazzy” Daniels, will serve as the Kennebec County OPTIONS Liaison. Daniels is expected to begin training this week, and the program is expected to fully launch in March 2021.