BELFAST – The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office is creating a new position to help fight the opioid crisis in rural Maine, and it’s the result of many community partners coming together.
“We realized several years ago that we can’t arrest our way out of the opioid crisis,” said Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton.
Sheriffs, medical professionals, and others on the front lines make up the Waldo County Recovery Committee. The grassroots group meets once a week in Belfast.
“We were seeing increasing numbers of people with substance use disorder, but no one was talking about it. And so I put an ad in the paper,” said Tim Hughes, a family doctor with Penobscot Community Health Care.
A couple years later, members are now working with about a $1 million grant from the federal government.
Some of that money will go to fund a new position in the sheriff’s department – a community liaison to respond alongside police officers for mental health calls.
“We’re very excited,” said Sheriff Trafton about the new position. “So that we don’t feel like we’re all alone and have no choice but to take somebody to jail to try and get them treatment, that doesn’t even make sense.”
The department is accepting applications now for someone who can connect those struggling with addiction to the right services.
Penobscot Community Health Care was awarded the grant to be distributed around Waldo County.
“That’s the thing, while I’m very pleased about this kind of opportunity, there’s so many people that aren’t aware that there is treatment available,” said Mary Beth Leone, the director of recovery programs at Seaport Community Health Center.
At Monday’s meeting, there was talk of modeling a community space like the Bangor Area Recovery Network.
Ultimately, community members want to have this money make a lasting impact.
“They don’t want us to establish these wonderful programs and then at the end of the grant, the money dries up and we can’t support the great efforts that we put in place, so sustainability is a huge, huge focus,” said Shelley Lobdell, a PCHC project manager.
The meetings are open to the public so organizers said if anyone in the area wants to get involved, they’re welcome to come to the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office at 9 a.m. on Mondays.