Senator Collins cited Waterville and Scarborough’s Operation HOPE as an example of two communities’ responses
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Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate Health Committee held a hearing titled, “The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward.” The Committee heard from author and journalist Sam Quinones, who has studied the opioid problem extensively and wrote a book on the subject titled Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, questioned Mr. Quinones about community-based programs such as Operation HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort), a program used by the Waterville and Scarborough Police Departments that encourages individuals to turn in their drugs and drug paraphernalia to the police, without fear of being charged with a crime. The program seeks to connect those individuals with community volunteers who assist them with seeking treatment. Senator Collins referenced a recent article that was published in the Morning Sentinel, which described how the program helped a 27-year-old woman in Waterville last year. The woman’s mother believes that her daughter, who has struggled with addiction for years and overdosed twice, would have lost her life if she had not entered this drug treatment program.
“One possible community-based approach was described in the Morning Sentinel…and it struck a chord with me because law enforcement officials in my state tell me that their jail intake rooms resemble hospital emergency rooms,” said Senator Collins. “[Operation HOPE] is a whole different approach for law enforcement to take…it allows them to get the help that they need.”
“In your experience, have you seen that type of program work better than the traditional approach?” Senator Collins asked Mr. Quinones.
Mr. Quinones praised the efforts of law enforcement officers across the country, highlighting the importance of new, innovative approaches being taken to adapt and respond to the drug crisis.
“With regards to law enforcement, in general, some of the most innovative folks and things I’ve seen come from law enforcement,” said Mr. Quinones. “You’d think law enforcement would be holding on to the old ways of locking people up. I’ve been amazed to see the remarkably innovative ideas that come out of law enforcement. The one you mentioned is one of them.”
Operation HOPE is modeled after the ANGEL program in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It partners with the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) to place individuals into one of the 300 PAARI-partnered rehabilitation facilities across the country. Their local partners include KVCAP, Discover House of Central Maine, Maine General Medical Center, and Healthy Northern Kennebec.