SCARBOROUGH — A recent grant awarded to Operation HOPE will take some weight off the shoulders of Police Chief Robert Moulton and his colleagues.

“Operation HOPE takes up a lot of our time, and we can’t sustain this in its present form,” Moulton said. “This is a public health issue that needs to be addressed on a statewide level and this opportunity is going to help a lot.”

The grant, awarded by the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, will allow the department to bring on a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA member to increase the capacity of the Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort recovery program.

PAARI, based in Massachusetts, since 2017 has been embedding AmeriCorps members in police departments as recovery coaches and program coordinators.

According to a recent press release, PAARI received a grant for nearly $413,000 from the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand the program. The money will be divided between nine states in a national effort to reduce and prevent overdose deaths. Operation Hope is the only Maine organization to receive funds.

The chosen candidate won’t get paid for the work, but will receive a living allowance, health insurance and an educational award funded by the grant, as long as they serve for the entire one-year contract.

“We plan to have the person in the position help with day-to-day operation and take an in-depth look at our success rates and recovery follow-ups because we’ve been unable to do that,” Moulton said. “With things changing on a state level, we’re hoping this person can be the one who helps shape what a potential regional program looks like.”

On Feb. 6, Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order directing her administration to take immediate steps to combat the opioid crisis, making naloxone readily available and increasing community outreach programs. She also created the Prevention and Recovery Cabinet.

The drug is used to reverse the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.

It’s these decisions, Moulton said, that help break the stigma and shed light on the bigger issue of helping people navigate sobriety after rehab and recovery is complete. To have this grant opportunity at a time when the administration is understanding of the epidemic, he said, makes a big difference.

“It’s great to get these folks into treatment, but there are so many other things that need to be worked on, like safe sober living and work opportunities,” Moulton said. “You can’t just send somebody away and have them come back to the exact same environment they were in and expect them to be successful.”

Allie Hunter, executive director of PAARI, said states were selected based on the leadership at the departments and the level of need in the area. Seeing how Moulton demonstrates his commitment to helping others in recovery, she said, placed Scarborough at the top of her list.

“Our mission at PAARI is to support police departments that are creating non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery, and Scarborough is a great candidate for the funds,” Hunter said. “They are already servicing a lot of people, from all over the state, and the grant will give them the extra boost they need.”

Moulton said when PAARI first started, Operation HOPE was one of the first locations in the country to join the team. To see more than 40 states involved in the program now, he said, has been inspirational.

Hunter said the application process for the Scarborough position is open to everyone, regardless of where they live or their educational background. Real-life experience, she said, is a valuable asset, but not required. Applications are available online.

There is no cut-off date for candidates to apply, although Hunter said the hope is to have the full-time position filled by July or late August. She said PAARI may take as long as it needs to find someone who will be the best fit for the job.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton: “With things changing on a state level, we’re hoping this (volunteer) can be the one who helps shape what a potential regional program looks like.”

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