SCARBOROUGH — The owners of a chain of autobody repair centers will give a car to a woman who sought treatment for heroin addiction through the Police Department’s Operation Hope program.
Liane, 24, who asked that her last name not be used, was selected by Phil and Kate O’Connor of Sandy Point Road, owners of POC Collision, to be the recipient of a rebuilt car. She sought recovery in late October through Operation Hope, and has been in a Portland treatment center since then.
Besides owning POC Collision, which has five locations in southern and central Maine, the O’Connors are members of the National Auto Body Council, which founded a program called Recycled Rides in 2007. More than 1,000 recycled and rebuilt cars have been donated to individuals, organizations and schools across the country through the program.
POC employees and volunteers donated their time to rebuild the car that’s being given to Liane. Vendors either donated parts or sold them at heavily discounted prices.
The make and model of the car won’t be revealed until the presentation, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 5, at the Scarborough Police Department.
Phil O’Connor said the decision to give a vehicle to a recovering addict through Operation Hope was a particularly meaningful one. “It sort of hits me, personally. I’ve had (addiction) in my family, too,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
“We hear a lot of stuff on the news about the drug epidemic we have in Maine,” and there tends to be a negative perception of those suffering from addiction, O’Connor said. “I have an understanding of how it is, and it’s difficult. A lot of these people don’t have support (or) any help.
He said he wants recovering addicts to know they’re not alone.
And rather than ostracizing someone for their addiction, O’Connor said he likes the idea of instead rewarding them for working toward recovery.
Heroin-related deaths increased in Maine by 714 percent between 2011 and 2014, Scarborough Police Officer John Gill said in late October. In the first nine months of 2015, 125 people died from heroin and fentanyl overdoses, and about 10 percent of all babies born in Maine last year were affected by drugs.
Operation Hope was initiated by Police Chief Robbie Moulton, Crime Analyst Jaime Higgins and Gill last last October, as a way to fill the gaps left by state support for recovering addicts. The program has placed more than 110 Maine residents into treatment centers across the country.
At the first-month anniversary of Operation Hope, Gill said the Scarborough Police Department is “intent on changing Maine’s response to addiction and helping (to) find ways to move forward and seek solutions, to give a face to recovery, to show what is possible, and to hopefully save lives.”
Liane sought help through Operation Hope on Oct. 28, 2015, after years of trying to find treatment elsewhere.
She was placed in a free, three-phase recovery program at Ginger’s House , a recovery center for women in Portland. In mid January, Liane called the day she found treatment “the best day of my life.”
She is nearly four months sober now, and is interviewing for jobs. She found out earlier this month that she was selected to receive the new car.
“I think I went into shock for at least a couple of weeks. It’s still a little unbelievable,” she said Wednesday. “It’s exciting and amazing. I’m so grateful.”
Liane said she wants to stay in Portland after she gets out of treatment, said having a car will be a big help. Not only will she be able to drive herself to work, but she hopes to eventually volunteer for the Portland Recovery Community Center, Operation Hope and local animal shelters.
Steve Cotreau, manager of Operation Hope and program manager at the Portland Recovery Community Center on Forest Avenue, said the donation of a vehicle is “incredible. I don’t know if I have words.”
“I think anybody starting off on a new adventure or a brand new direction in their life, to get any sort of lift to propel them forward is incredible. And a car, especially in Maine, is huge,” Cotreau said.
O’Connor said he and his wife decided to donate a vehicle “not because we have to, but just to bring notoriety to the problems that we have with addiction.
“It’s just a way to help other people, other than just pointing a finger at them,” he said.
While she still focuses on one day at a time, Liane said lately she feels very optimistic.
“I just feel a lot more grounded and positive about the future, and determined,” she said.
Scarborough resident Phil O’Connor oustide the R.P. Bell Collision business he owns with his wife, Kate, in Saco. The O’Connors’ POC Collision will give a recycled and rebuilt car next month to a young woman who sought treatment for her heroin addiction through Operation Hope in Scarborough.