Carol McCracken (Post # 2,488)
In an unprecedented initiative in
Maine, Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck announced this afternoon that his department will be hiring a full-time Drug Liaison in the near future. A resume will be developed and posted sometime this month with the “Portland Program” up and running by early next year. The Liaison’s salary is yet to be determined, but will be taken from a fund composed of recovered funds during drug busts – the amount of that fund is currently at $150,000.
The drug epidemic is national, with numbers especially high in the New England area. In 2015, there were 334 cases of drug overdoses in Portland. So far, this year there have been 400 cases of drug overdoses in Portland. Seventy-five percent of the crimes are drug related the Chief said at the city hall press conference this afternoon. This Liaison who will not wear a uniform will accompany police officers and make referrals to the city’s resources – rather than being taken to a hospital emergency room with an unknown outcome. “We know that we have been doing things wrong in the past,” said Chief Sauschuck who at times seemed animated. “We hope that people will trust us now that we are trying to hep them.”
In the meantime, State Representative Mark Dion (D) will be introducing legislation early next year requesting $250,000. for eight communities across Maine to finance pilot programs to assist in combating this drug epidemic. The proposed legislation is the result of work done by the Mayors’ Coalition, a group organized by Mayor Michael Brennan when he took office. Although Governor LePage is seen as hard-nosed on such matters, it is believed that there would be enough support in the state legislature to override any veto of his.
About l l/2 years ago, the outgoing Mayor Brennan convened a Substance Abuse Task Force co-chaired by State Rep. Dick Farnsworth (D) of Portland and Day One Executive Director David J. Faulkner, MSW. On January 15, 2015, Kris Nypop from the LEAD program in Seattle, Washington, described to the Task Force an innovative program begun in 2013. It’s objective is to divert low-crime suspects into rehab facilities programs, if they were willing to meet certain requirements.
Rep. Farnsworth said this hiring is seen as a first step in what is hoped will be a more comprehensive program. “This first step is largely a referral service. We hope it will expand into more treatment and rehab programs,” said Rep. Farnsworth. (see above left photo.)
Since that January meeting, the interested parties have been working diligently to finalize plans until today’s announcement.