OPTIONS program unites officers and counselors in common goal

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FARMINGTON – A new collaboration between local law enforcement and mental health workers aims to reduce the number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses; the initiative comes after a record-breaking report was released by the Maine Attorney Genreal’s Office last month.

The report indicated that just over 500 deaths were caused by drugs in 2020- a 33 percent increase from 2019 statistics. Of those deaths, 336 were caused by non-pharmaceutical fentanyl.

OPTIONS, which stands for Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety, provides a professional substance abuse counselor who acts as a liaison between emergency responders, the individual who is struggling, and resources for recovery. Referrals to the local OPTIONS liaison can come from anybody, including officers who may be assisting at an incident.

Franklin County’s liaison, Rebekah Mitchell, said she does this work because of first hand experience Mitchell is fully trained to administer Naloxone and can educate and provide it to family or friends of addicted persons.

“We’re trying to save as many lives as we can. You just never know. That one time, that one interaction, it could be what stops an overdose,” Mitchell explained to Farmington police officers during a recent presentation.

In addition to bridging the public to resources, Mitchell said she hopes the program will help reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse disorders. Many people don’t report overdoses because they fear the ramifications, but Mitchell said OPTIONS aims to reduce that fear.

“There are a lot of different ways to get people connected with these services. It doesn’t have to be all blue lights and sirens,” Chief Ken Charles said.

Mitchell has an office at the department on Franklin Ave. She can be reached anytime for referrals or questions at rebekahm@wmbh-me.com or (207) 500-1752.

To make a referral, click here and fill out the form.

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