BIDDEFORD, Maine — The cities of Biddeford and Saco are seeking applicants for a coordinator of a recently-announced, joint-opiate outreach program the two communities hope to get up and running by the beginning of next year.
The municipalities are looking for people willing to coordinate the Saco Biddeford Opiate Outreach Initiative, a collaborative effort to facilitate pathways for addicts into community-based treatment, medically assisted treatment, recovery and support services.
It was announced in early September that the Biddeford and Saco Police departments – along with those of Sanford, Portland and Westbrook – would share $1 million in funding from the Maine Department of Public Safety to establish programs designed to help people with substance abuse problems or addiction issues get on their feet.
The program is founded on the premise that detoxification occurs behind walls but recovery occurs in the community. The cities have partnership agreements with the University of New England’s Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition, Southern Maine Health Care and the York County District Attorney’s Office.
Sgt. Steve Gorton of the BPD and Dep. Chief Corey Huntress of the SPD are taking leadership roles in the initiative. Neither was available for comment Wednesday regarding the selection process for a coordinator.
The coordinator’s role is to work with both communities’ police departments to provide education, outreach, case management and resource referral to those with substance abuse disorders, Biddeford Dep. Chief JoAnne Fisk said Wednesday.
Fisk said the program and its coordinator will provide relief for two police departments struggling to balance a number of tasks. Biddeford saw 20 overdoses in October alone, according to Chief Roger Beaupre’s Nov. 4 newsletter, 5.8 percent of all emergency medical responses that month.
Fisk said the BPD already tries to place those with substance abuse issues into recovery when possible, but can’t always provide addicts with resources.
“It’s huge. It means a lot to law enforcement,” Fisk said. “It’s something that we are currently doing ourselves as we can, but will be this person’s full-time job.”
City officials hope to have someone hired by late December or early January, and applications are being accepted through the rest of November.
City Manager Jim Bennett said Wednesday that the program is slowly but surely being established. Ideally, he said, someone would be hired by now — however, there was limited time to submit applications for the grant and all the details had not been laid out in full.
“There were admittedly some details that had not been completely flushed out. I think my perception is that stuff is being worked out very well and we’re proceeding along,” Bennett said. “Between the two communities we have a really good concept and approach, I think, to the issue.”
Bennett is looking forward to Biddeford and Saco collaborating on the initiative, he said, because he feels it’s a necessary cause that will save lives.
“We’re really committed to doing what we can to work really closely together,” Bennett said. “Obviously we want to make a difference and try to do the preventative stuff, so people are not going down the wrong path, that’s the goal.”
People interested in applying for the SBOOI coordinator position can do so by visiting biddefordmaine.org/police and navigating to “Job Openings/Job Guide/Job Application.”