ELLSWORTH — Amplified by the many challenges created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Maine’s opiate and substance use crisis continues to impact individuals, families, and communities, with many areas experiencing their highest drug overdose numbers to date. For individuals seeking help, treatment options are limited and resources scarce. Ellsworth-based Project HOPE works to help connect those seeking recovery with the resources and the treatment they need. 

Launched in September 2016 by Ellsworth Police Department in partnership with Healthy Acadia, Project HOPE (Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort) is a police-led initiative and community-wide effort that works to connect area residents seeking treatment with recovery resources and treatment locally and/or out-of-state. 

“Project HOPE is an essential service, in some circumstances it is the only way people can access treatment,” said Tracy Crossman, Healthy Acadia’s recovery resource navigator and coordinator for Project HOPE. “The search for treatment is incredibly difficult, and for someone who is struggling with substance use disorder it can seem unmanageable. Project HOPE Angels take on that challenge, and can be the difference between continued substance use or accessing treatment.”

Modeled after the Gloucester ANGEL Initiative and the Scarborough, Maine Police Department’s Operation HOPE, Project HOPE partners work to place participants into appropriate treatment, regardless of their financial situation. Those who ask for help are welcomed into the police station and connected with recovery supports and treatment services, as well offered referrals to supportive services to continue their healthier lifestyle. Participants are screened during an initial intake session and paired with a volunteer “Angel,” who will work to help find an appropriate treatment program and/or recovery supports. They are encouraged to turn in their drugs and paraphernalia and will not be penalized for doing so.

“I just wish more folks would take advantage of all we can offer,” said Ellsworth City Manager and Police Chief Glenn Moshier, who is also passionate about Project HOPE. Increasingly alarmed by the continued increase in opioid overdoses and deaths in the region, Chief Mosier is working with Healthy Acadia to boost awareness and utilization of Project HOPE’s services, and to raise much-needed funds for the program.

Launched five years ago with a $2,500 startup grant from the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.), Project HOPE has secured additional small grants that have enabled the partners to continue providing the service, however, the project relies heavily on community support. 

Crossman connects with treatment centers in Maine and throughout the U.S. in an effort to secure scholarships for Project HOPE participants, but recovery treatment services are seldom offered cost-free. A typical 28-day residential recovery program may cost several thousand dollars per participant. Project HOPE typically has just $1,500 available for each participant, which may only cover their travel expenses.

“We hope that our community will be inspired to support Project HOPE by making a monetary donation this holiday season,” said Crossman. 

“This incredible, innovative collaboration is sustained primarily through the generosity of community members and local businesses,” said Healthy Acadia Development Director Shoshona Smith. “We invite the community to visit our website to learn more about ways to give, or to give us a call! Gifts to Project HOPE are so meaningful and impactful.”

Project HOPE accepts participants at the Ellsworth Police Department on Tuesdays, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted, but phone calls in advance are encouraged. 

To connect with Project HOPE, call the Ellsworth Police Department at 207-667-2168 and ask for Project HOPE assistance. To learn more about Project HOPE, connect with an Ellsworth police officer; or contact Crossman at tracy.crossman@healthyacadia.org or 207-610-0386; or visit www.healthyacadia.org/spr-deph

To make a financial contribution in support of this work, visit https://bit.ly/SupportProjectHOPE or call Shoshona Smith at 207-667-7171 Ext. 210.

Healthy Acadia is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that engages in a broad range of initiatives to build healthier communities and make it easier for people to lead healthy lives across Washington and Hancock counties, Maine. Learn more at www.healthyacadia.org