Portland officials unveil new program to tackle opiate epidemic | News

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Portland officials unveil new program to tackle opiate epidemic
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Officials in Portland are rolling out a new program to tackle the city's opiate epidemic. They announced plans to create the Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program, or LEAAP, program. It's modeled on an initiative in Seattle, Wash.

The three main goals of LEAAP are to educate people about drug use and addiction, raise community awareness and help addicts find treatments.

"We're trying to step away from the conference table and get on the street," Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said.

The city's Substance Abuse Committee, local and state officials, and organizations in Portland that focus on addiction treatment and recovery have been working for months to develop the program.

The police department is creating a new position. The person who fills it will act as a liaison between drug addicts and their families, and police.

The new liaison will respond to drug-related calls, in plain clothes, alongside uniformed police officers. The person will provide support for addicts and help them get treatment.

Portland Police are paying for the program with some of the $150,00 dollars in drug forfeiture money that has been collected at busts.

"This is money that's been seized from drug dealers right here in our community that are selling poison to our residents," Chief Sauschuck said.

Officials said the events of July 31 were a tipping point in creating LEAAP. On that day, the fire department responded to 14 overdose calls. Two people died.

Sauschuck said the new liaison position will be posted early next week. He hopes to have the program up and running by early next year.

Sauschuck and other city officials are calling on state legislators to help tackle the heroin epidemic. Rep. Mark Dion (D-Portland) is drafting a bill that would provide money for pilot programs like this one in communities across Maine.


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