Police Program Looks to Help Drug Addicts in Scarborough, Maine

Police in Scarborough, Maine, have a drug treatment program that has become a victim of its own success.

Operation HOPE, modeled after the ANGEL Program in Gloucester, Massachusetts, allows drug users to come to the police station and ask for help getting into a drug treatment program without fear of arrest.

Since October, the Scarborough program has helped 131 people get into treatment. But now, help is getting harder to find.

"It's becoming more and more difficult," said Police Chief Robert Moulton. "We're spending more time on the phone, and at the end of the day, we feel like we have no help."

Chief Moulton said many people seeking help do not have health insurance. When the program first launched, drug treatment facilities were able to provide "scholarship beds" to people without insurance, but offering free services is not a sustainable business model.

"At the end of the day, there's only so many that you can take before it becomes financially not feasible," said Nathan Cermelj, owner of Liberty Bay Recovery, which has accepted 15 people from Operation HOPE.

Program coordinators say there are a number of possible solutions to the problem: more drug treatment facilities opening in Maine, more people receiving health insurance, and more funding.

The family of an Operation HOPE graduate, Scott White, has started a GoFundMe page to help with some of the costs associated with treatment.

White said Operation HOPE saved his life, and he hopes other people struggling with addiction have the same opportunity.

"I wouldn't be here," said White. "I would either not exist, or I would be incarcerated and not able to build my life back together, like I did with this program."

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