“The grant to deal with the opiate problem is the state’s way of addressing it,” said Rideout. “The program is for anyone who is trying to get into recovery or is in early recovery, not just people already on recovery.”
The Recovery Liaison Program helps people get connected with housing, a primary care doctor, food pantries, health insurance and employment. “It’s to help sustain their recovery and build that foundation,” said Rideout, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. When someone goes to treatment and returns to the same house and has the same friends it’s a recipe for relapse, she said. Before taking this position, Rideout worked in the probation and parole office as a counselor. Her job now is to hook her clients up with the recovery community as soon as possible. They are also paired with a recovery coach, someone who has been through the process and has had 30 hours of training. “It’s important to have another peer in recovery to talk to,” she added.
Rideout spends one day a week at each police station working with people who have been referred to her from police officers, probation and parole officers, the jail staff and word of mouth. The fifth day is spent at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, conducting sessions with people from her towns, after they attend group sessions with others from the team. Since February, at least 300 inmates have attended the group sessions during their free time. She tries to help as many people as possible. Not all of them are involved in the criminal justice system, she said. On average she works with 13 or 14 people at any one time. The program also partners with Grace Street Recovery Services.
This recovery oriented system of care includes all aspects of someone’s life. When someone is dependent on a substance, the substance takes priority over everything else in life including family connections, jobs and health. This program helps them reconnect to society and their community.
“I check in daily. I let them know I care – that someone cares,” Rideout said. Through her job, she attends court with people and brings them to the food pantry. “It’s not all paperwork,” she said.
The need to help people is huge since there isn’t another program like this. Most programs are focused on getting people into treatment, which is greatly lacking in the state, she said. Aftercare services for those in recovery are also in short supply. Waitlists of four to six months for grant treatment programs are not unheard of and people die while waiting for a place. The epidemic is generational. People with substance use disorders often have some trauma or abuse in their past, Rideout said. The drugs “trick you into thinking it’s fixing (the problem).”
Rideout knows all of the treatment and detox locations in New England and does what she can to get people into them, even if it means working deals with the centers or setting up GoFundMe accounts to pay for it, often needing special approval from the state.
Relapses are part of the process, but each time something is learned and gained, Rideout said.
“It might be two steps forward and three steps back, but you still have those two forward.”
The program is overseen by an Advisory Board that meets every three months. At the Westbrook Police Department, those involved in the program are Police Chief Janine Roberts, Captain Steve Goldberg and Community Approach to Stop Heroine (CASH) coordinator Shelby Briggs.
“The hope given loved ones of those struggling with opioid use disorder and those living with the disorder, has a significant positive impact on their lives and dreams for a future,” said Roberts. “The connections to resources and community for those who have decided to join the program have created opportunities to fight through the disorder, finding a new meaning for life. Connecting those in need of life sustaining supports at their local community level, allows them to focus on recovery and provides a higher percentage of success at attaining long term recovery.”
Rideout is hoping to have another recovery coach training in 2018. She often posts requests for donations on Facebook yard sale sites, hoping to help people furnish apartments or get back on their feet in some way. She keeps a stock of sheets and clothes in her car and office for those who might need them, she said. However, she doesn’t have storage for large items.
For more on the program call or text Rideout at 207-303-4009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-ins to any of the four police stations are another way to connect with the services.