Operation HOPE, the Scarborough Police Department program that helps those suffering from substance misuse find treatment, has extended its temporary closing until at least the end of the month due to the spike of the omicron variant.

“We felt it was best for the safety of our clients coming in, and our personnel working Operation HOPE, that we shut down for a period of time,” Chief Mark Holmquist said.

The program, which has placed 635 people into treatment since its inception in 2015, was shut down Dec. 16 and had planned to resume Jan. 14. The department will now reassess the closure Jan. 31.

The shutdown is a preemptive measure, Holmquist said. The department has seen an “uptick” in COVID-19 cases, “not only here with our personnel, but friends, families and everyone else in the community.”

In the meantime, Operation HOPE is directing clients to the Portland Recovery Community Center, which has been a partner of Operation HOPE since it opened in 2015.

PRCC’s volunteers, dubbed “Angels,” have either gone through, or are currently in, recovery from substance misuse. Usually they meet with Operation HOPE clients at the police department but now meet them at the center on Bishop Street in Portland, according to PRCC Executive Director Leslie Clark.


“Then, we help with the actual logistics of connecting the person to treatment and giving them that emotional support,” Clark said.

The partnership was formed in response to the opioid crisis that arose over the past decade and has worsened as a result of the pandemic.

There were 504 deaths caused by drugs in Maine in 2020, 336 of which were due to non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, according the Office of the Maine Attorney General. The drug-related deaths were a 33% increase over the 380 in 2019, and there was a 30% increase in fentanyl deaths.

“We saw a great need, when the opioid crisis hit so hard, to be able to help people find treatment,” Clark said. “It’s been such a wonderful collaboration. From the police point of view, I think they begin to learn and experience first-hand the hope that comes with recovery.”

Holmquist agrees.

“They’ve been a very good partner,” he said. “For the most part, they’re the fiduciary of Operation HOPE, so they take care of the money side of the house for us to make sure that it gets to where we need it the most for the treatment of the clients coming in.”


Operation HOPE placed 15 people in treatment in November 2021, and eight in December before shutting down.

People come to Scarborough from “every county in our state” to seek Operation HOPE’s services, said Holmquist.

“The biggest obstacle to that, obviously, is the travel and people trying to make arrangements to travel to Scarborough during our business hours to meet with one of our professionals,” he said.

Holmquist shares a belief with former Chief Robbie Moulton, he said, that Operation HOPE has always been intended for “a statewide push.”

“I believe we have the framework established,” he said. “We have a good, successful working model that could be adopted statewide … I think if we had a more statewide model, that was set up properly, then we could impact the greater population of the state of Maine.”

Comments are not available on this story.