Scarborough, Maine Police Department’s Operation Hope Places 150th Participant Into Treatment

Scarborough, Maine Police Department’s Operation Hope Places 150th Participant Into Treatment

See media coverage from WGME, Portland’s CBS affiliate, here.

SCARBOROUGH, MAINE — Chief Robbie Moulton is pleased to announce that the Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE (the Heroin – Opiate Prevention Effort) has placed its 150th participant into a drug treatment and rehabilitation program. An Old Orchard Beach man in his 30s requested assistance in obtaining treatment for heroin use.  He will receive  treatment and rehabilitation services courtesy of an Operation HOPE treatment facility in Florida.

Through Operation HOPE, any person who enters the Scarborough Police Department and requests help for a substance use disorder, is initially screened to determine eligibility to participate in a treatment program.  If the person is found to meet program eligibility requirements, the individual is paired with an Operation HOPE volunteer “Angel.”  The Angel then walks the person through the process toward detox and recovery, including accelerated placement into a rehabilitation and treatment program whenever possible.

Since its launch on Oct. 1, Operation HOPE has assisted residents in 76 Maine towns and cities, representing 14 of Maine’s 16 counties. Two-thirds of program participants lacked the health care coverage or financial resources that would have allowed them to obtain treatment on their own. Many of them are receiving free treatment and rehabilitation services courtesy of one of Operation HOPE’s nationwide network of cooperating treatment facilities.

According to Chief Moulton, Maine’s heroin and opiate problem has touched a wide spectrum of the state’s citizens.

“Through Operation HOPE, we have seen people living in poverty and people with financial resources, working people and the unemployed, people in their teens and people in their 50s, the homeless and homeowners, people who have not completed high school and people with advanced academic degrees,” Chief Moulton said. “There is no longer a ‘stereotypical’ heroin or opiate user. It can affect anyone.”

According to Operation HOPE officials, people frequently become addicted to heroin after first using prescription pain medication, often prescribed by a physician.

“The United States has just 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of the world’s pain pills,” said Officer John Gill, Operation HOPE Coordinator. “Eighty million pain pills were prescribed to Mainers in 2014.  That is over 60 pills for every man, woman and child in the state.”

According to Officer Gill, up to 80 percent of people who use heroin began after using prescription pain medications.

“When access to prescription pain medication stops, people turn to the cheaper, more available alternative–heroin,” Gill added.

But Operation HOPE has helped demonstrate that recovery is possible and people do get better.

“We are frequently asked, ‘How are people doing? Have their lives changed?” Chief Moulton said

As a result, Operation HOPE volunteers have started to reach out to the men and women who have participated in the program.

“So far, 79 of the 98 people we have spoken to say, ‘I’m doing better. I am living in recovery,’” Chief Moulton said.

While program officials acknowledge that such self-reported data is not scientific, initial statistical analysis by Boston University on a similar program based in Gloucester, Mass (the Gloucester ANGEL Initiative) shows that over 70 percent of program participants were no longer using opiates.

“Most importantly,” added Chief Moulton, “all 150 of our Operation HOPE program participants are still alive. With 272 fatal drug overdoses in Maine in 2015, we believe Operation HOPE has saved lives.”

Operation HOPE Placement Coordinator Jaime Higgins noted that the 150th program placement held special significance.

“The volunteer Angel who assisted in this placement is, himself, a person in recovery,” Higgins said. “The fact that people who once struggled with substance use disorder can give back and help others shows that recovery is possible and people do get better.  It is inspiring.”

Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE is being pursued in partnership with the Portland Recovery Community Center and the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative.

Operation HOPE is one component of the Scarborough Police Department’s three-prong strategy to address the drug problem, by focusing on enforcement, education and treatment. The initiative operates based on public donations and is supported in part by a grant from the Maine Department of Public Safety, made possible by the bipartisan efforts of the 127th Legislature and Governor Paul LePage.

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MEDIA NOTE:  For further information on the Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE, contact Officer John Gill at 207-883-6361 or