Peppermint Park a “Hot Spot” for Drug Users; Mayors to Lobby State for Funds for “Lead” Program

City Manager Jon Jennings Officiates at Press Conference  Today at City Hall

City Manager Jon Jennings Officiates at Press Conference Today at City Hall

Peppermint Park on the East End-a "Hot" Spot by Drug Users.

Peppermint Park on the East End-a “Hot” Spot for Drug Users.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,379 )

Peppermint Park on the East End of Portland has been cited as one of two parks in the City that is a “hot spot” for drug users acccording to Portland Police Chief MIchael Sauschuck at a press conference this afternoon at city hall. Other parks are vulnerable to drug use, but this one and Deering Oaks Park have been cited as the most problematic in the city.

A recent surge in opiate overdoses in Portland concerns city officials and prompted the press conference to increase public awareness, educate the public and outline the next step to alleviate  the situation.  At least fourteen (14) people overdosed on opiates in a 24-hour period last weekend according to Jon Jennings, City Manager.  Five caused cardiac arrest and two were fatal.  Whether or not this is a “bad” batch is unknown as some have speculated.  It’s all bad as far as I’m concerned said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.  If you come across a needle, do not pick it up,” he cautioned.  “Leave it where you find it.”  The leading cause of opiate addiction is the prior use of ‘prescription drugs said Mayor Brennan.

Last April a representative from a Seattle based organization spoke to members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Addiction and Drug Abuse.  He described in detail the innovative program which has been instrumental in improving public safety and saving the lives of low-level and prostitution offenders through the program LEAD – Law Enforcement Arrest Diversion. When someone is arrested, the officer  makes a decision whether to send this person to jail or to divert him to a community support program,  A priority of LEAD is to provide housing for the individual.  That’s essential according to the Seattle representative last April who spoke to the Mayor’s Task Force. Each ‘divertee’ must abide strictly to rules or loose this opportunity to improve his quality of life and improve public safety. It’s an expensive program. of course.

Later this year, Mayor Brennan and members of the state-wide Mayor’s Coalition have been invited by DHHS Director Mary Mayhew to present its plan to her on the LEAD program as well as costs to implement it.  It would cost the City of Portland between $100,000. and $200, implement the program.   The overall, state bill including members of the Mayors’ Coalition would be much higher.  Reduction of drug useage in Maine is a priority of Governor Paul LePage. Officials emphasized that this is a national program, not just a Portland problem.

Chris Corson, head of Portland’s drug prevention office, attended a two-day White House  conference on the LEAD program  early last month. The Seattle program was discussed as well as a new program in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  According to Corson, Albany, New York decided last month to implement the program as well.

The City has recently launched a website: