FARMINGTON — Selected men were introduced Tuesday night, April 12, to Katlyn Johnson, a substance abuse counselor who works with the police department.
“She’s an UMF graduate who moved here from somewhere,” said Police Commissioner Kenneth Charles. “She has worked in substance abuse issues for the past four years. She has worked in a clinic in Chicago for two years and in Waterville for a few years and has a lot of experience.”
A majority of Johnson’s caseloads while in Waterville were residents of Franklin County, Charles noted.
“The director knew I was traveling from Franklin County,” Johnson said. Local customers were brought together with Johnson to receive community recognition to let them know about the wonderful things available, she said.
Johnson works for Western Maine Behavioral Health on the OPTIONS program and is stationed with the police department, Charles said.
“One of the most important things she does is make herself available to respond alongside officers as they respond to overdose situations,” he noted. Johnson is able to stay on site and even come back later to offer services and encourage people to access treatment options, Charles said. “It’s a really fantastic program.”
OPTIONS is the Maine Office of Behavioral Health’s overdose prevention program through outreach to naloxone, Johnson said. It draws attention to the many treatment options available to those struggling with some form of addition to counties, law enforcement and emergency services, she noted.
The program includes alcohol, detox and relapses, Johnson added.
The OPTIONS initiative lets people know beds are available — even if they’re out of state — that there are resources to help people in recovery find jobs and other needed support, she noted. Not only does the program help law enforcement and emergency services do their jobs, but another aspect is improving understanding of the Good Samaritan Law to increase calls to 911 for medical assistance and overdose emergencies, Johnson said.
“A lot of medical problems follow [that law]It’s safer and healthier to see a doctor now rather than later,” she noted. The initiative increases the distribution and availability of life-saving narcan to businesses, individuals and families in need, Johnson said. It helps answer the questions that people might not want to ask or that people don’t like to ask, she added.
The initiative educates vulnerable populations about safer drug use practices that reduce the risk of fatal and non-fatal overdose through the use of crime reduction strategies and resources and raise awareness, Johnson said. “Our community is already doing a lot for these people simply by bringing those in need together [to resources]’ she remarked.
The grant-based program is free for everyone, Johnson said. “Trying to create education and awareness, save lives, help law enforcement with their wonderful work.”
Local support groups are a big part of recovery, Johnson noted. “It’s not just about having these powerful conversations about addiction, substance abuse, recovery and all of that, but connecting them to the community and resources at this time. To let them know that we are there for them, that there are things they can do, people who can be there to lift them up.”
“It’s not just about people fighting individually,” Charles said. “It’s about providing support, the resources, when you’re in this situation, it’s your family member that’s struggling. This is also an enormous burden for you.”
The Drug Take Back Day event takes place on April 30th
Drug Take Back Day is going to get a little muddled this year, Charles noted.
The event has been held at Walmart in previous years but will be held at Meetinghouse Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to make it more available, he said. A few parking lots will likely be closed to create a drive-through area, Charles added.
Johnson and staff from the Healthy Community Coalition will attend the event, according to the department’s Facebook page.
Anything turned in goes to the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency and is incinerated, Charles said. “Approximately 150 pounds of unused prescriptions were turned in last fall,” he noted. “Some could be narcotics, some could be abused, some we just don’t want in landfills and in the water.”
Charles said five boxes were available last year.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface, we’re going to have extra boxes this year,” he said.