Waterville’s Operation Hope has helped over 400 people with substance abuse disorder

Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 6:01 PM EST
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - It has been a few years since the start of Operation Hope in Waterville.

“2016, we were just being overwhelmed by the opioid epidemic, and we realize we are not going to be able to arrest our way out of this,” Waterville Interim Police Chief William Bonney said.

Operation Hope stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention effort.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and is a major cause of fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the U.S.

Waterville Interim Police Chief William Bonney says that puts users at much higher risk.

“Often times, the drug dealers don’t even know what they have,” Bonney said.

Last year, Maine saw a record 631 deaths due to drug overdose.

That’s a 23-percent increase from the previous year.

“That is why we want to get people help because every time they use heroin, fentanyl could be their last time,” Bonney said.

The pandemic didn’t help.

“We had to focus on COVID because it was a top priority, however you also need to not lose focus on the other problems,” he said.

The program, which is funded by donations, has helped over 400 people so far on their lifelong road to recovery.

Robert Bouley says an important first step is willingly making the call or better yet, walking through the doors of the police department.

“I find that most people that are doing it because they have been kind of pushed by family or they have been pushed by something in the law enforcement field, they are in their mind thinking, yes, I do want help, but they are not at that time maybe doing it for the reasons of I need to do it now and give it their full effort.” Bouley said.

From there, a team of people including Ronald Hughes will recommend and provide the best option of treatment, all based on the individual’s need.

“The best scenario is if they need detox to try to find them a detox bed, before they get out of that detox facility, to find them a treatment bed so that can go from bed to bed.”

Hughes says the only thing that matters is there is help available and hope.

“Hope for someone who is desperate, hope for someone who is desolate, We see a lot of people who are homless. They have nowhere to go,ughes said.