Friday, February 17, 2017

Local municipalities meet challenges and offer solutions to opiate crisis By Stephen Signor

While Maine has earned prestigious distinction from the National Safety Council for addressing opiate addiction, the crisis continues to keep pace with efforts to subdue the effects by law enforcement. While the introduction of Narcan has potentially made an impact on the lives of 21 individuals in 2016, there is much more to be done. Thankfully municipalities like Windham are on the front lines meeting the challenge of users, abusers and addiction head on. 

To help address the crisis, aggressive steps have been taken through collaboration. “What we’ve done in the last two summers locally and what we hope to do again this time, is augment our drug investigations, by teaming up with other departments and having officers work with various state and federal task forces of southern Maine and focus on drug investigations in Gorham and Maine collaboratively,” stated Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield.

In addition to this, his department has received a grant for a substance abuse liaison. “The grant is geared toward identifying people who have suffered from opiate abuse disorder, while in treatment or coming out of treatment or perhaps from jail; and then helping to identify services that may be needed to become clean. These can include, but are not limited to: housing, employment and health benefits,” explained Schofield.

Another element of the grant is the training for what is called the recovery coaches. “My goal is to get two or three of my officers trained, not necessarily to ask them to be coaches but to follow up on a one to one base to see how they are progressing with treatment. This has come out of the cooperation of an approved relationship between our law enforcement and our community in terms of partnership with them. Our goal is to get officers trained so we understand the process and theories behind that a little better. But we are also trying to get citizens from each community trained as a recovery coach,” said Schofield. The grant encompasses four communities totally - 50,000 residents in this region of the state. “That’s a big step; a positive step,” expressed Schofield. 

This is where Westbrook Recovery Liaison comes into the picture. Making services available to residents of Westbrook, Windham, Gorham and Buxton - they are in partnership with the police departments, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, plus the Probation and Parole and Grace Street Recovery. 

As substance abuse liaison Danielle Rideout explained, “Opioid use disorder is a community problem. It affects everyone whether they realize it or not. A person who is suffering with an opioid use disorder is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother. There isn’t any walk of life that is exempt from this disorder. One of the biggest challenges for people entering recovery is feeling as though they belong and are a part of a community.”

Understandably, when someone is viewed as less, than they have a lesser chance of connecting with healthy people and changing their lives because they don’t feel they are worth the effort. “If someone is suffering with an opioid use disorder, he/she needs to be connected to treatment and positive support, in order to make the necessary changes to be able to sustain long term recovery. We can’t change someone’s past, but by offering support and hope, we can change their future,” continued Rideout. 

“The Westbrook Recovery Liaison Program is designed to help citizens of Westbrook, Windham, Gorham and Buxton get connected to services that will help them have a feeling of self-worth, such as: Education, career training, mental health provider, primary care provider, substance use treatment, etc. Once a person feels they can make one small change, it opens the door for the major changes,” concluded Rideout. 

In the meantime, when it comes to identifying signs that someone has or is becoming a user of opiates, “A broad statement would be that an indicator, with any substance abuse problem, is when social groups change or people become more withdrawn from a social group,” stated Schofield. Switching doctors is another indicator and so is an abnormal amount of empty prescription bottles lying around. “Opiate abuse disorder takes over one’s life. Weight loss is not uncommon and not being well kept (hygiene). These changes can be gradual and therefore not easily detected,” continued Schofield. 

On a positive note, Project Hope, another key resource in recovery which is located in Scarborough, saw eight residents from Windham enter their doors and placed in acute treatment facilities in state and across the country. According to Schofield, “What does this tell me? We definitely have a problem and are trying to mitigate here. I don’t think it is any worse than other communities within southern Maine. We are only as strong as our eyes in the community.”
FMI visit the following:

Recovery Liaison Danielle Rideout at: or directly at: (207) 303-4009

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