Community Responses in Brewer/Bangor to Our Heroin Epidemic

Officer Chris Martin, Brewer P.D., the B.A.R.N. and cast of awesome presenters teamed up Wednesday night to discuss the growing epidemic of heroin in our communities.

Several take aways from the evening:

– Great turn out! Folks are justifiably concerned about what’s happening in our towns.

– Awesome to hear presenters and audience members alike announcing that they themselves are in recovery from addiction. Recovery is coming to the forefront. We’re all aware that addiction is salient, what we need to be increasingly aware of is that recovery is a powerful force that is more prominent than ever.

– Several who spoke acknowledged that there are many pathways to recovery. Personal Observation: 12 step communities are thriving in greater Bangor and they are many:

– Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Drug Addicts Anonymous, Al-Anon, Nar Anon, Codependent Anonymous, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and others are widely available just Google them for local meeting times and places)

– So cool to hear from local police and D.E.A. agents alike that we will never arrest out way out of this epidemic and even cooler to hear them acknowledge that as community members, we are ALL stakeholders.

– Wonderful to hear local and state elected officials acknowledge that heroin abuse affects all of us and that any ideas folks have about addiction being stigmatizing must be replaced with the simple truth that we are all affected.

– Incredible to hear folks in the audience express a desire to support addiction treatment financially for the uninsured and under insured through grassroots organizing (Who wants to take the lead in this?!?).

– Folks remain unclear about what is available locally for treatment. Short version of that story: Professional addiction treatment centers exist on a continuum of care. Some forms of treatment are widely available in greater Bangor and others are not.
Categorically and from most intensive to least they are:

– Long Term Rehab (4-6 months) (Wellspring, Derek House)
– Short Term Rehab (usually 30 days) (the FARM in Limestone and a handful in southern Maine)
– Detox Centers (generally 7-10 days) (severely lacking throughout Maine)
– Intensive Outpatient Programs (roughly 9-18 hours a week) (Dirigo Counseling, Acadia Hospital, others)
– Opiate Replacement Clinics (length of treatment varies) (Discovery House, Acadia, Metro)
– Outpatient Counseling Centers (varies short or long term) (Wellspring, Higher Ground, and many more)

In each of these categories it can be tough to find a program/provider that does not have a long waiting list. A lot of our detox needs state wide are not being met at all and others are being schlepped off to local medical and psychiatric hospitals for what is euphemistically referred to as a “spin dry” (bare bones shortest possible medical stabilization).

– A number of people present expressed a strong desire to become involved and we lacked time to sufficiently brainstorm. Chief Perry Antoine recommended that folks start by talking with friends and family to raise awareness and to increase prevention efforts. He also suggested folks go to the Bangor Area Recovery Network for volunteer opportunities (an excellent suggestion they’re at 142 Center St in Brewer 561-9444).

Here’s some additional starting points:

– Get educated! Learn the warning signs and symptoms of opiate addiction. This will enable you to identify friends, family, and coworkers who may be suffering and to reach out to them. Resource: http://www.addictionhope.com/opiates

– Go to your churches and civic organizations and discuss how each of our groups can best act to provide support to those seeking recovery and what we can do to help prevent addiction in our youth.

– Support programs that support recovery. The Columbia Street Project and the B.A.R.N. most notably. Plans are emerging for an Oxford House in greater Bangor and other plans for sober living houses are currently being developed!

– Consider volunteering your expertise! If you have professional skills to offer there’s no question that folks seeking to overcome addiction have a need for what you do. Offer pro bono or discounted services.

– Seek out of the box opportunities to support addiction recovery: If you’re an employer, you should know that no one has better work ethics than folks in recovery. If you’re a landlord you should know no one wants to maximize a second chance like we do. If you’re an educator or have vocational and/or life skills to teach, we’re eager to learn!

– We need advocates! The need for detox and rehabilitation centers in Maine cannot be overstated. This simply will not happen without legislative support. Let’s organize and make our voices heard!

– Get involved in every level of your community. While it’s true that addiction negatively impacts every part of our society, it is also true that every investment we make in our communities connects us to each other and increases social support (the disease of addiction hates connection and flourishes when folks are isolated).

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.