New law provides Scarborough’s Operation Hope with $60K

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SCARBOROUGH — Operation Hope is slated to receive more than $60,000 in grant reimbursements over the next 13 months, thanks to a new state law.

The law earmarks money to reimburse law enforcement entities and county jails for the establishment of projects designed to facilitate pathways to treatment, recovery and support services through law enforcement initiatives,” according to language in LD 1537.

The Police Department started Operation Hope Oct. 1, 2015, as a way to supplement the lack of adequate support or options for those dealing with addiction.

Officer John Gill, one of the founding members of Operation Hope, told town councilors last September, “We are 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.”

Starting this month through June 30, $8,800 will be reimbursed to the department, Police Chief Robbie Moulton said Monday. Starting July 1 and for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year, an additional $52,800 will be earmarked for Operation Hope.

The grant funding, which the department had to apply for, will be primarily used to pay for traveling expenses for individuals seeking treatment. Because Maine’s treatment options are limited, Moulton said, many of the nearly 150 people who’ve been placed in treatment through the program have been transported to treatment facilities as far away as California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Paying for transportation through the program has been the department’s “biggest expense,” Moulton said.

The grant will also be used to reimburse employee overtime, which has been exhausted by Operation Hope. Police Department officers and employees have juggled both sets of duties, and the department hasn’t budgeted for the needed amount of overtime, Moulton said; the grant will help bridge that gap.

The funding will also allow the department to print more informational pamphlets about Operation Hope to place in the lobbies of police departments around the state.

In the future, depending on whether the department procures more grant money, the plan will likely be to begin funding partial payments for treatment beds, so the department won’t have to rely exclusively on donations, Moulton said.

Operation Hope placed nearly 30 individuals in treatment centers during its first month and, in the five months since, has placed 148 people, largely funded by donations from treatment centers around the country.

Depending on the facility and the needs of the individual, treatment and detox programs can cost thousands of dollars.

The typical cost of a 30-day treatment program is about $18,200, department crime analyst Jaime Higgins said last October, which means that nearly $200,000 worth of treatment is being offered to individuals who seek treatment through the project.

Compounding the cost, most individuals in search of treatment do not have insurance. To ensure that recovery is not cost-prohibitive, the department has convinced several treatment facilities across the country to donate treatment spots – an option that, while directly benefiting individuals now, is not sustainable for the department or the facilities.

“It’s getting to the point where those full scholarships beds are harder and harder to secure,” Moulton said.

Spending future grant money on “partial payments” for treatment beds is a likely scenario. “Everyone’s been great about giving those (beds) to us, but at the end of the day, these places need to make a profit, too,” Moulton said.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.