Mainers Use Mobile Van to Bring Drug Treatment Services to Local Community

By Victoria Kim 02/27/17

The van is equipped with naloxone as well as a space for volunteers to discuss addiction treatment options.

a parked camper van

Two Mainers are taking addiction recovery on the road—via a mobile van equipped with clean syringes, naloxone, and more. The van will travel throughout the city of Sanford (about one hour outside Portland) to bring harm reduction services and recovery options to areas most affected by opioid abuse.

The van is the latest project by the Choopers Foundation, a local non-profit that serves to educate the public on addiction and the need for drug policy reform. According to its website, the foundation’s projects include a syringe exchange center in Lewiston, the Overdose Warning Network app (for first responders to enter overdose incident data), and Chooper’s Guide, a directory and resource for those seeking help for addiction.

According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the co-founders, Tim Cheney and Adrian Hooper, are in long-term recovery from heroin addiction, so are able to work from experience. “We reach out to people, treat them with dignity and say we’re here for you to create treatment plans if you ever want to,” Hooper told AP.

The van is equipped with the overdose antidote naloxone as well as a space for volunteers to discuss addiction treatment options with drug users and provide HIV testing. 

In 2015, Maine recorded a total of 272 drug overdose deaths. But before 2016 was even over, by September 30 of last year, that number was already 286. According to Attorney General Janet Mills, the surge in fatal overdoses has been fueled by “illicitly manufactured (non-pharmaceutical) fentanyl” that is mixed with heroin to boost the drug’s potency.

“We’re losing over one person a day in Maine,” said Cheney. “Back in the ‘70s, there was just as much heroin. The issue now is the fentanyl in it.”

Daniel Raymond of the Harm Reduction Coalition told AP that this type of program is able to “intervene early before people end up in the emergency department or morgue.” 

A similar initiative has been delivering monthly injections of Vivitrol (which blocks the effects of opioid drugs) to rural areas of western Pennsylvania. The PRS mobile clinic, a trailer hitched to a Ford pickup truck, is operated by Private Recovery Solutions, a private clinic in Washington County, and ensures that people living in remote areas are following up on the treatment.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr