Police in Westbrook will be trained to administer the drug that reverses the effects of an overdose.

This year, firefighters in the city have used naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, 31 times, 25 of which were for heroin overdoses, said Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte.

In total, there have been 121 overdoses in Westbrook this year. Thirty-eight of them were from opiates, and 30 of those were from heroin, Turcotte said.

Westbrook police, joined by various members of the community, held a news conference Thursday to make public its efforts to combat the city’s heroin problem. The problem is plaguing the entire state, which has seen a sharp rise in people using heroin.

Among those speaking at the news conference were the city’s police chief, the City Council president, the superintendent of schools and a resident in recovery.

They talked about a three-prong approach to stemming the flow and use of heroin: prevention through education, enforcement and intervention through treatment and recovery.

Opportunity Alliance will host a series of public forums on the topic in Westbrook starting Jan. 21.

Shelby Briggs, who is in recovery, pleaded for other members of the community who are in recovery to join the effort to find a long-term solution to the problem and help keep people alive now.

“We want to hear from you,” she said.

Several Maine police departments – which often encounter people with substance abuse disorders who are engaged in criminal conduct – have launched efforts to get help for heroin users. Scarborough’s Project Hope and Project Save ME in Oxford County have launched programs modeled after one started by police in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The programs encourage people who are addicted to heroin to turn themselves in to the police department. Instead of users facing criminal charges, the departments try to find them treatment.

Portland police this month announced the creation of the Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program through which a new substance abuse disorder liaison will make sure addicts are aware of available resources and will work to educate young people to prevent abuse.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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Twitter: lesliebridgers