FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department unveiled a new program Thursday that aims to get heroin and opiate addicts on the path to recovery by helping them enter treatment programs rather than jail.

The new program, Operation HOPE (Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort), will start Feb. 1 and is a collaborative effort of Farmington and Wilton police, the Franklin Community Health Network and Evergreen Behavioral Services.

“Addiction is recognized as a disease, and one that has touched almost every person, in one way or another in our community. Officers of the Farmington and Wilton Police Departments as well as deputies with the sheriff’s office are aware of this disease, as they see the results of illegal drug use on a daily basis,” Farmington police Chief Jack Peck said in a news release Thursday.

The program will combat drug use and addiction using a “three-pronged approach” of “enforcement, education, and treatment,” Peck said in the release.

Through Operation HOPE, officers from the two departments will offer assistance to anyone who requests help with ending their addiction. Once asking for assistance, a person will be referred to drug treatment and education through the Franklin Community Health Network and Evergreen Behavioral Services.

The release states that amnesty against charges will be granted to anyone who contacts Farmington or Wilton police seeking assistance with their addiction and turns in illegal drugs, paraphernalia or misused prescription medication.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Peck said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

Operation HOPE was modeled on a similar program in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the Angel Initiative, and another program established last year in Scarborough. As of Oct. 1, 2015, the Scarborough Police Department’s program has helped 100 people get into drug treatment, Peck said. The Augusta Police Department is launching a similar “angel” initiative in which people addicted to drugs who go to the city’s Police Department on Union Street seeking help will be funneled to a program that gives them a mentor as well as treatment.

How the treatment will be funded under the Farmington program is still not entirely clear, but Peck said the funding portion will be handled through the Franklin Community Health Network and Evergreen Behavioral Services. He said it probably will be paid for through insurance.

Initially, only Farmington and Wilton police were going to be involved in the program, but Peck said the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office joined Operation HOPE after it was announced on Thursday. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment.

Peck is hopeful that Operation HOPE can expand through other police departments in Franklin County, given that the drug problem affects the whole area.

“I’m hoping that the whole county will get involved,” Peck said. “If it can save one person’s life, then I’ll be extremely happy.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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