MaineGeneral Health announced the opening Monday of a new medical practice with locations in Waterville and Augusta to help people addicted to substances.

MaineGeneral Addiction Medicine provides comprehensive services to patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder, opiate use disorder and the treatment of other addictive substances, according to a MaineGeneral news release. Services are offered at 9 Green St. in Augusta and Thayer Center for Health on North Street in Waterville.

The addiction medicine team uses an evidence-based approach to manage opioid, alcohol, stimulant and sedative — or benzodiazepine — use disorders, with a focus on diagnosis, treatment and prevention, according to officials.

“From one-on-one appointments with addiction medicine physicians, to group meetings, individual counseling and needle exchange services, we are here to support patients and families through this process,” said Nicholas Gallagher, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and the medical director for MaineGeneral’s Addiction Medicine program.

Chuck Hays, MaineGeneral’s president and chief executive officer, said MaineGeneral looks forward to providing more robust substance use disorder treatment services to the community.

“For the last 15 years, we have provided medication-assisted treatment for opiate use disorder,” Hays said. “Having an addiction medicine practice allows us to continue to effectively respond to the current opioid crisis in our community, as well as the ongoing prevalence of alcohol use disorder and its long-ranging effects on individuals and families.”

Asked if the program is affiliated with the Waterville Police Department’s Operation HOPE program which aids those seeking help to find resources for recovery, MaineGeneral officials said Operation HOPE refers people seeking treatment to MaineGeneral’s programs, whether they are inpatient, outpatient or residential programs, and that referral practice will not change.

Operation HOPE, which stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort, focuses on enforcement, education and treatment, with the primary focus on treatment. The program, launched by the police department in 2017, relies on donations and fundraising efforts and uses volunteer “angels” who make calls around the county to find treatment centers that have space available.

Meanwhile, Gallagher, the medical director for MaineGeneral’s Addiction Medicine program, said there are differences between what MaineGeneral offered prior to Monday’s opening of the addiction medicine program and now.

“By creating an independent addiction medicine department, MaineGeneral has shown its dedication to treating patients with substance use disorder,” Gallagher said. “There are not a lot of obvious differences from the get go. However, we plan to continue to grow this department with the goal of being able to provide comprehensive addiction medicine treatment services to all patients in need in our community.”

The program has a core group of medical staff solely dedicated to, and focusing on, addiction treatment, according to Gallagher.

“From a logistical/budgetary perspective, being our own department with our own dedicated budget and administrative staff allows us to better assess the needs of our patients and be strategic in deciding how to meet those needs,” he said. “In addition, we plan to continue to grow our prevention programs and community partnerships.”

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