Waldo County Sheriff's using federal grant to help fight opioid crisis

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BELFAST, Maine (WABI) - Every Monday, the Waldo County Recovery Committee meets to to focus on the area's opioid abuse.

"The problem was that we had substance use issue in our community. And no one was talking about it," said Tim Hughes, a doctor with Seaport Community Health Care.

"We're trying to have an impact on the opioid crisis in Waldo County. And the mental health crisis in Waldo County, because they're closely tied to each other," said Jeff Trafton, Waldo County Sheriff.

To help them do that, PCHC and The Waldo County Sheriff's Department received nearly $2 million dollars in federal grants.

From health care to law enforcement, the key phrase is restorative justice.

This rural community is finding ways to treat those with opioid abuse disorder, rather than treat them as criminals.

"How to get people connected to the resources so that they can change their life. Instead of putting them in jail, and making it kind of a punitive problem. No it's a problem that someone needs help and how do we give that to them," said Mary Beth Leone, a member of the committee.

With the use of some of their new funds the Sheriffs Department is planning on hiring a new officer to help with mental health situations.

"Were going to use some of those grant funds to hire this community liaison person and he or she will actually go out and respond with police. People that are in crisis so that we can better handle their issues instead of taking somebody to jail cause the only mental health facility is the Waldo County Jail. It shouldn't be that way, it should have never been that way," said Trafton

"Were going to keep doing what we're doing. We have open doors for anyone with substance use disorder. They can walk into our office at anytime and get plugged into a program and they join a group and we help them work on getting their life back," said Hughes.