2017-03-03 / Front Page

Operation HOPE seeks grant

Community development grant would assist with treatment and transportation costs
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Operation HOPE (Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort), the Scarborough Police Department’s response to the opioid and opiate epidemic in the area, was never intended to be a permanent solution to the issue, but rather a stop gap until something more lasting could be arranged.

With no permanent solution in sight, on Feb. 15 the police department sought the approval of the town council to apply for a $33,000 Cumberland County Community Development Program grant to keep the program going, at least in the interim.

The grant, according to a memorandum from Dep. Chief David Grover to town councilors, “would be used to support the Operation HOPE program by assisting in paying for treatment and transportation costs.

The treatment would include long-term residential treatment and medically assisted treatment.” Grover said the grant would require a 20 percent match ($6,600), which has already been secured through private donations. Since launching in October 2015, Operation HOPE has helped more than 220 individuals, including 174 in Cumberland County, with their drug addition. Town Manager Tom Hall said 69 percent of the individuals the program helps lack insurance or the financial resources to deal with their addiction on their own, something that emphasizes the need for grant funding.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo, who along with his fellow councilors gave the department the go-ahead to apply for the grant and Hall the authority to sign it on behalf of the town, applauds the department for the work it has done for the program, but feels Operation HOPE is only a temporary fix to something that needs a much more permanent solution statewide.

“I think we can be part of the solution, but we are not the solution,” Caiazzo said.

Finding that solution has been a topic the Metro Regional Coalition, which includes Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Gorham, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook, has been discussing.

“The feeling of the metro coalition is we need to support educational elements to avoid people falling into the situation and find a way to get people into detox and therapeutic treatment,” said councilor Bill Donovan, who serves as Scarborough’s liaison to the commission.

Town Council Chairman Shawn Babine too appreciates the work the police department has done to facilitate the program, and would “have no problem” allocating funds from the municipal budget to Operation HOPE because is “is such an important issue for the region.”

He would also support using asset forfeiture funding – money seized from drug deals – like was done last year when the council approved using $8,000 in forfeiture money to support Operation HOPE. The money is typically used for items that fall outside the traditional police department budget.

Through the program, based at the Scarborough police department, individuals who seek help are screened and if they meet program requirements are paired with a volunteer angel that works with them to get placed detoxification or rehabilitation programs. Individuals can also drop off drugs and drug paraphernalia at the station, no questions asked.

According to grant application, Operation HOPE’s aim is trying to find the addiction treatment program that works for each client.

“Operation HOPE recognizes a philosophy that there is no single right treatment methodology for addiction. In the addiction treatment recovery community, there are people who endorse various treatment strategies. There are advocates for medicine-assisted treatment, behavioral and cognitive treatment, abstinence-based programs, impatient programs, outpatient programs, peer support efforts, 12-step sobriety programs and others. From speaking to people in recovery and those who help them maintain sobriety, Operation HOPE believes the best treatment is the one which works for the individual and their particular circumstances. As a result, Operation HOPE recognizes a variety of pathways to recovery.”

Scarborough police officers have also been trained in addiction-related issues and aid in determining if an individual meets program eligibility and which treatment path is right for them.

Initial follow-up with close to 100 Operation HOPE program participants indicates the program has been successful in reducing the addition in the area. 80 percent of those interviewed (79 of 98) self-report they are still sober and working towards recovery.

Heroin and opiate addiction has become an ever-increasing issue over the last few years. From 2011 to 2014, according to the grant application, heroin-related deaths in Maine increased from seven to 57 – a 714 percent increase – while fentanyl deaths increased 378 percent during the same time span. In 2015 232 people died of drug overdoses and over the first nine months of 2016, that number had risen to 286 individuals. In fact, since 2014 more people have died from drug overdose than from motor vehicle accident.

Heroin and opiate addiction, Scarborough police have said in the past, increases crime in town, the area, region and that state. An estimated 80 to 85 percent of property crime (residential, vehicle or commercial burglaries, thefts, shoplifting or robbery) are drug-related.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarbroughleader.com

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