“Six in 10 Mainers know someone who has used heroin or abused prescribed opiate painkillers,” according to a Portland Press Herald poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. That means that almost 800,000 Mainers have personally witnessed this crisis.

Six out of 10 sounds about right as I talk with friends and neighbors in the midcoast. Just when it seemed nothing could top the long list of disturbing statistics, another comes along to remind us that this is a real and devastating problem for all of us.  

With more than half of everyone in Maine affected directly or indirectly by the opiate epidemic, I am pleased to report that the Knox County Recovery Coalition — KCRC (knoxrecovery.org) is gearing up rapidly. With approximately 200 individuals and organizations involved with KCRC, five workgroups — Education/Prevention; Treatment/Recovery Pathways; Criminal Justice Opportunities; Recovery Support Services; and Opportunities to Support Families and Friends of Those Afflicted — have been created. So far, the Recovery Support Services and the Family and Friends workgroups have met, and the initial set of priorities from those meetings included (not listed in any particular order):

To help reduce the stigma and suffering caused by opiate addiction, KCRC will explore options to provide information about addiction help in Knox County to individuals in need, their families and the public at large; coordinate care and services for individuals and families in need; provide “re-entry” assistance for people recently released from prison/jail into the community; provide support from others in recovery for individuals and families in need. 

Use of a “Recovery Center,” similar to the Portland Recovery Community Center, might be a valuable hub to provide those services.

In many communities, use of navigators, recovery coaches and mentors has been a valuable approach to supporting people in recovery.  The KCRC will explore recruitment and training of those individuals for Knox County. 

Use of “drug courts” has led to much healthier outcomes for people wrestling with addiction in many communities, including some communities in Maine. None yet exists in Knox County. KCRC will work towards establishing a local drug court to improve outcomes for people caught up in the criminal justice system, fostering more treatment and less punishment for people with this chronic disease. 

People in recovery need safe housing options where they would not be exposed to substance use. KCRC will work to foster better options in Knox County.

Many of those struggling with addiction also struggle with poverty, resulting in living chronically in survival mode. True recovery requires availability of all types of economic support options for individuals and families. KCRC will create a clearinghouse of information to enable more optimal use of existing resources as a first step to address this problem.

“Case management” helps people with complex problems negotiate our difficult system of care. To better help people struggling with addiction, it is necessary for current case management agencies to have specific recovery support knowledge. KCRC is exploring working with existing agencies to ensure case managers have the knowledge and skills needed to help people in all stages of recovery.

The workgroups also recommended actions to develop a family/community support group that meets regularly and to conduct outreach to local communities to provide support and guidance

KCRC will explore partnering with experienced Maine organizations who work to enhance the lives of everyone impacted by mental health issues by offering education and creation of a network of support groups. 

As of this update, a compendium of resources is being developed to help people in recovery, their families and friends. which will be posted on the KCRC website in the near future. Also, community forums are being planned throughout Knox County in the coming months. 

Please contact KCRC to help the coalition or if you have any questions: 370-9881 or knoxrecovery@gmail.com.