Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll.

ROCKLAND, Maine ― The mission of newly elected Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll is largely rooted in being proactive, especially when it comes to how the county’s law enforcement officers addresses addiction.

Carroll, who took office Jan. 1 after running unopposed, has worked for the sheriff’s office since 2009, mostly as chief deputy. He has more than two decades of law enforcement experience in coastal Maine. While Knox County’s crime rate ranks among the lowest among Maine’s 16 counties, giving residents a general feeling of safety, Carroll said the drug epidemic is undoubtedly the largest issue facing the local community.

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As sheriff, Carroll is aiming to improve the level of addiction resources ― including medication-assisted treatment ― to which inmates at the Knox County Jail have access. He also wants to create a network of support that will follow them after release.

“I want to create an atmosphere [at the jail] that the help [inmates] receive will go out the door with them because that is where we have lost it in the past,” Carroll said.

A significant percentage of the people incarcerated at the county’s 70-bed jail are there because of drug-related offenses or an underlying struggle with addiction, Carroll said. The jail offers Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, as well as a case-by-case access to buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone, a medication used for addiction treatment.

Carroll said he wants to explore expanding medication assisted treatment within the jail for inmates who rely on it for their recovery. Only the Knox County Jail and the Penobscot County Jail allow specific types of medication assisted treatment for inmates struggling with addiction.

“There are all kinds of different thoughts on [medication-assisted treatment], but medically it makes sense,” Carroll said.

[The 18 lost years of a Maine man imprisoned with addiction]

Carroll also wants to replicate a network of addiction support and recovery resources that has taken shape in Lincoln County, called the Lincoln County Recovery Collaborative, which includes law enforcement agencies, health care providers and community organizations. The group works together to address the problem of addiction and provide support for those who are struggling.

With this collaborative model, Carroll feels people who are struggling would be more willing to reach out and ask for help than if they were just interacting with a law enforcement officer in a traditional police setting. Carroll said he is currently meeting with a small group of people in Knox County to launch a similar program.

Even in matters not pertaining to addiction, Carroll’s primary goal as sheriff is to make people feel comfortable reaching out to the sheriff’s office. Being more involved with the public is something Carroll said he has gravitated toward during his 26 years in law enforcement, and it’s a quality he thinks will complement his new role as sheriff.

[What’s being done in Maine to break the stigma that addiction is a ‘moral failure’]

“I want to be more out into the public so that the communities that we serve are comfortable and confident in us and know that they’re able to call us at any time for any reason,” Carroll said.

Knox County Sheriff’s Office has sole jurisdiction over 14 of Knox County’s 18 towns, and provides support to the four towns with police departments. Including the sheriff and chief deputy, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has 20 sworn officers.