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Bangor police keep crisis counselor program alive despite losing grant funds

Bangor Daily News - 7/17/2018

July 17--A "highly successful" program that pairs mental health and substance-use counselors with Bangor police officers will continue on -- and might expand -- despite losing its grant funding, the police chief said.

At the start of 2017, the department received a $121,502 state grant to create an 18-month program that placed an Acadia Hospital substance-use case worker in the cruisers patrol cops -- a move that came in response to the rise of drug-related crisis calls in Bangor. The department has since added a second case worker to focus on mental health calls.

But last year, the Legislature did not renew funding for the Substance Abuse Assistance Grant, which meant the city had until June 2018 to come up with alternative funding. Unable to find another grant, the department will dip into its own budget to continue the program because it's proven helpful to officers, Bangor police Chief Mark Hathaway said.

"The value of the program is such that we have included it in the police department budget for the coming year," he said.

Police say they have dealt with a steadily increasing number of 911 calls related to drug addiction, mental health crises and drug overdoses. When caseworker Andrea Carver -- whose position had been funded through the program -- started riding along with police 18 months ago, police praised her expertise in handling people in crisis as well as her familiarity with the network of resources available to people in crisis.

"The chief was always saying, we'll work it out," Carver said, when she learned the grant funding her role wouldn't continue.

Hathaway said the department will pursue other grant funding sources to keep the program going after the next fiscal year. That plan might include expanding it.

"In fact, we're talking about a third position," Hathaway told the Bangor City Council'sGovernment Operations Committee on Monday, although he noted that plan was in its infancy. "We do see a need for a third position."

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