Clients who participate in the Diversion program often have charges waived in whole or in part at the discretion of Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office once an individual demonstrates successfully completing the program. Several variables determine successful completion of the program, but Diversion Care Coordinator, Amber Hatch, believes no client is incapable of making meaningful change in their lives. “I truly believe that everybody can change, even if it’s just a little bit,” says Amber. “Overall, recovery is a process. I’ve had instances where people go through the six to eight weeks and aren’t heavily engaged. Then once they’re in the aftercare program, they’re saying, ‘Whoa, I need help.’ And they know where to turn. And so it creates connections, and it creates a path for people to know where to ask for help. I’m not expecting perfection; I’m looking for progress.”
Amber’s clients can be challenging to connect with because of the stigma they face due to their involvement with the criminal justice system and substance use. Breaking through those barriers and creating open and honest relationships with her clients is a challenge she embraces. “One of the things that I really love is meeting people and getting to that point where they see me and realize that they really can trust me, they can tell me that they’ve used recently, or that they need help because such and such has happened in their lives. I love to be that person that can take that step back non-judgmentally and say, ‘we should work towards trying to figure out how we can do this.”‘
Amber is steadfast in her belief that the program works but admits not all stories are success stories immediately, but they are opportunities to try again. “When we have clients that either finished the program and then very quickly re-offend, or re-offend while they’re in the program, people tend to look at it and say, ‘Well, does this program work?’ And the real answer to that is yes, it does work if somebody slips and has a recurrence of use; it doesn’t mean that the program is ineffective. It just means that there were probably some greater needs that weren’t being met because the client didn’t express them at the time,” says Amber.
About the Kennebec County Diversion Program
Launched in June of 2020 in partnership with the Augusta Police Department, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office; KVCAP, the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery; and the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, the Kennebec County Diversion Program seeks to support the diversion of eligible adults suspected of low-level drug offenses who are struggling with mental health, or substance use needs out of the criminal justice system and towards the resources they need. Diversion staff work with clients to connect them to resources such as recovery coaching, job training, transportation, medical providers, support groups, necessities like food and clothing, housing, and harm reduction supplies. By connecting clients with resources, the staff hopes to break down barriers so clients can live happy and healthy lives. This program is free for those who qualify. The program offers participants weekly support for six to eight weeks, followed by six months of aftercare support.
Interview and story by Amelia Metcalfe [she/hers], Communication & Development Specialist at Crisis & Counseling Centers