Radio Address: Lincoln County's anti-addiction efforts show strength of coming together

Posted: July 22, 2016 | Senator Johnson, Weekly Radio Address

These days, a lot of people feel like their voice isn’t heard. That they don’t have the means or the tools to effect change in their communities.

I’d like to tell you a story that proves how untrue that is.

Hi, this is state Senator Chris Johnson from Somerville. Thanks for tuning in.

Bobby Whear runs a small business in Damariscotta Mills. Last November, he had been learning how police officers in other cities had successfully partnered with health care providers to combat the drug crisis and save lives. Addicts who wanted to enter recovery could turn in their needles and their drugs at the police station. Instead of a misdemeanor possession charge, the police would arrange treatment with an addiction treatment provider or recovery specialist.

By using this model, by treating addiction as a public health crisis — not a purely criminal one — police departments in Scarborough and Gloucester, Massachusetts, had been successful in connecting hundreds of people with the help they needed. In doing so, they decreased the demand for deadly drugs like heroin, and cut back on crime related to the drug trade, such as theft and burglary.

Bobby learned all this and wondered: If this model works, why we weren’t using it here in Lincoln County?

When he called me, his state senator, I didn’t have an answer. But I knew we should have one.

I made some calls. Soon, we had a group of stakeholders from several local police departments, the sheriff’s office and local health care providers and recovery specialists. We worked together to identify Lincoln County’s unique challenges and resources. We learned best practices from leaders in Scarborough.

Soon, Bobby Whear’s idea stopped being a theoretical, and became a plan. And last week, the plan became a reality, when we launched the Lincoln County Recovery Collaborative.

The Collaborative links law enforcement and recovery specialists to address drug addiction as the urgent health crisis that it is.

Our arrangement is the first county-wide version of such a partnership in the state. Its success will be thanks to one person who asked the right question; who wanted his community to step up to the plate.

Our towns may be small, but by working together, we can leverage our collective resources and save lives.

This has been Senator Chris Johnson. Thanks for listening.