Since its launch on October 1st, Operation HOPE has assisted residents of 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 which 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 Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton, Maine’s heroin and opiate problem has touched a wide spectrum of Maine’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”, said Moulton. “There is no longer a ‘stereotypical’ heroin or opioid user. It can effect 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% of the world's population but consumes 80% of the world's pain pills”, said Officer John Gill, Operation HOPE Coordinator. “80 million pain pills were prescribed to Mainers in 2014. That is over 60 pills for every man, woman, and child in the state”, he added.
According to Gill, up to 80% 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”, said Gill.
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?” said Moulton.
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 recovery”, said Moulton.
While program officials acknowledge that such self-reported data is not scientific, initial statistical analysis by Boston University of a similar program based in Gloucester, MA shows that over 70% of program participants were no longer using opioids.
“Most importantly”, added 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. 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”, said Higgins.
Scarborough Police Department Operation HOPE is being pursued in partnership with the Portland Recovery Community Center (www.portlandrecovery.org) and the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (www.paariusa.org).
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.
Operation HOPE operates based on public donations and is supported in part by a grant from the Maine Department of Public Safety made possible by the cooperative efforts of Governor Paul LePage and the members of the 127th Legislature.
For further information, see www.operationhopemaine.org.
MEDIA NOTE: For further information on the Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE, contact Officer John Gill at 207-883-6361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.