Knox County Sheriff's Office.

ROCKLAND, Maine ― A new collaborative of law enforcement agencies and community organizations in Knox County is hoping to better address how people who are struggling with addiction can get access to help.

The Knox County Recovery Collaborative will officially launch later this month, but it’s a group effort that Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll said has long been needed in the area, which has been hit hard by addiction.

“This will bring us closer together to help with the addiction problem that we have [in Knox County,” Carroll said. “People are suffering from a disease that we need to help them recover from.”

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Through the collaborative, Knox County’s four law enforcement agencies will partner with local health care and community organizations to form an established network of addiction and recovery resources, such as treatment and counseling or more basic needs like employment and medical care.

As the opioid epidemic has tightened its grip on the state as a whole, Knox County agencies and organizations have struggled to provide addiction resources to those who need them.

In 2015, Knox County saw more than 450 hospitalizations related to substance use, such as opioid overdoses, according to a 2016 report compiled by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Only Cumberland County saw the same rate of hospitalizations because of substance use.

During the past few years, more resources have become available, though organizations have been working separately to provide these resources. Carroll hopes the formation of the collaborative breaks down silos that have existed and improves communication among those working to provide recovery resources in Knox County.

“This is an effort to bring that all under one roof,” Carroll said. “It’s an effort to bring [everyone] closer together to use each other’s resources and opportunities collectively.”

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Rockland police Chief Chris Young said the collaborative format is what Knox County was missing in terms of how different organizations address addiction. Having established partnerships between health care providers, community organizations specializing in recovery resources and local law enforcement agencies will allow people to get help faster, he said.

“I think we can get people in crisis into treatment options faster, with a quicker follow-up time from those organizations [in the collaborative],” Young said. “Early intervention, or fast intervention, is the key to getting people the help they need.”

As sheriff, Carroll oversees the Knox County Jail, a 70-bed facility that is meant to hold individuals after their arrest but before conviction or for short sentences, often less than nine months.

Carroll said about 75 percent to 80 percent of the inmates at the jail struggle with substance use disorder, another mental health disorder or both. “[The jail is] really, a lot of times, like the ER for mental health and substance use care,” he said.

But when an inmate leaves the jail, the care does not follow.

[‘There was no help for me’: Fighting addiction on Maine’s coast has been a struggle]

Carroll said one aspect of the collaborative will be to remedy that loss of care. Using partnered organizations within the collaborative, jail administrators will be able to guide people leaving the facility into a continuation of care, whether that be addiction treatment and counseling, or housing and employment.

About 10 agencies and organizations make up the Knox County Recovery Collaborative’s founding partners, including the Coastal Recovery Center, Penobscot Bay YMCA, the Knox County Community Health Coalition, Pen Bay Medical Center, the Knox County Homeless Coalition and Maine Behavioral Healthcare.

At 5 p.m. April 11, the Knox County Recovery Collaborative will hold a public meeting at the Steel House in Rockland to introduce its mission to the community.