Lincoln drug treatment workers, police seeing more addiction woes

Posted Nov. 26, 2013, at 6:26 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — An Airport Road treatment facility is refocusing and might expand its outpatient programs to cope with what one of its leaders described as increasing drug addiction in the Lincoln Lakes region.

Her evidence is anecdotal, but Sharon Greenleaf, assistant director at Northeast Occupational Exchange, said that the number of addicts her facilities treat is increasing, and patients are getting younger.

“Before the situation was that we would see an older group of people, probably more in their late 30s and 40s, that had mental health [and drug addiction] problems,” Greenleaf said Tuesday.

“Now we are seeing people using drugs at a much younger age, in their early, early teens, and now they are coming into treatment in their 20s and they have already had 10 or 15 years of drug use,” Greenleaf added. “It is hard-core drugs, too, things like oxycodone, bath salts and heroin.”

Lincoln Public Safety Director Dan Summers agreed with Greenleaf’s assessment.

“This is a trend that is happening across the state,” said Summers, who joined Lincoln’s police and fire departments after serving as Skowhegan Police Department’s deputy police chief for several years. “I haven’t been here a long time, but we often meet with other chiefs and attend conferences and we are all seeing the same things. We are dealing with more juvenile crimes, younger individuals that have an addiction to opiates.”

A recent example, Summers said, is the 35 burglaries reported in the Lincoln Lakes region since July. Police believe that the burglars are young teens and twentysomethings who are driven to crime by addiction.

“They want that money for that high and sometimes they are not thinking that clearly. Their addiction drives them,” Summers said. “The problem isn’t just in Lincoln. It is everywhere.”

A licensed mental health and substance abuse agency serving Bangor, Dexter, Lincoln, Newport and Portland, NOE does not prescribe drugs for its clients, but rather offers the counseling that typically accompanies drug-treatment programs.

It treated its Intensive Outpatient Program clients in a unisex group until September. Its workers just finished training to start offering the three-hour, three-day-a-week counseling program to individual groups of as many as 10 men or women at a time. They seek clients or referrals from other agencies, and hope to launch their program early next month, Greenleaf said.

“We also offer transportation and day-care to our clients,” Greenleaf said. “We have tried to make it as low-barrier and easy to enter as possible so there is nothing that gets in the way of people who want to attend it. We hope.”

Anyone interested in seeking treatment or referring clients for treatment can call 800-857-0500.

Largely funded by Medicare, MaineCare and its own fundraisers, NOE employs a psychologist, two mental health and drug rehabilitation technicians and one certified drug and alcohol counselor. The agency, which also takes clients with medical insurance, hopes to increase its staff as its treatment programs grow, Greenleaf said.

One impediment: no Lincoln Lakes region health care providers are licensed to prescribe Suboxone, Greenleaf said. Suboxone is an alternative to methadone that reduces the symptoms of opioid dependence but is less tightly controlled than methadone because it has a lower potential for abuse, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The region’s lack of prescribers “limits the use of a very valuable tool,” Greenleaf said.

She did acknowledge that the drug, which requires prescribers and patients to follow strict guidelines — including regular pill counts and urine testing — is difficult to administer to “a troublesome population” — addicts. Maine police also are seeing an increasing number of people smuggling Suboxone.

And with Bangor’s city council opting 7-2 on Monday to declare a 180-day moratorium on the expansion of Suboxone use, clients in need of the drug might find it difficult to procure, Greenleaf said.

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