Knox County Substance Use Disorder (aka “Drug Addiction”) Workgroup to meet April 12 in Rockland

NOTE: The original posting of this column said the Community Investors Program is based on one in Lewiston -- the program actually is in Waterville, and that has been corrected in the copy below.

 Rockland Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf and I, along with Knox County Community Health Coalition, are coordinating a follow-up meeting to last month’s community forum, Heroin/Opiate Addiction in Knox County. That February 4 meeting was standing room only, with residents and health professionals all in agreement that bold action is needed to slow and reverse the epidemic eroding the foundation of our neighborhoods.

The follow-up workgroup meeting, on April 12, will focus on taking the action needed to address:

• Substance use prevention and education

• Substance use disorder treatment and recovery

• Law enforcement role in the substance use epidemic 

• Funding and support services to enable those affected to enter recovery

Invitations will be extended to community and health care leaders, practitioners, law enforcement personnel, public health experts and local social service organizations. Pen Bay leadership, Pen Bay medical and behavioral practitioners and Maine Behavioral Health practitioners will be encouraged to attend. 

An organization called “Recover Together” will also attend. They say they are ready to begin providing treatment in Rockland to people with substance use disorder (SUD) within six weeks — as soon as they can find two Knox County doctors willing to work with them. 

Anyone interested in attending the April 12 forum who has not received an invitation should call me at 370-9881.

Tired of hearing about the heroin/opiate epidemic? Now’s your chance to help.

Tired of hearing about this issue? Would you like to help this issue go away? Everyone can help in their own way.  Everyone can help at the level that feels right to them.  Directly or indirectly this issue affects every single one of us. For instance, did you know that currently 1 out of every 12 babies are born addicted to drugs in Maine? This is our problem. And it is only getting worse with each day that we don’t take bold action. 

The Knox County Recovery Network is seeking help in the form of volunteers and/or financial support to address the four issues listed above. The Knox County Community Health Coalition (KCCHC) is a nonprofit charitable organization that will process your offers to contribute time and/or financial donations to help battle this epidemic. KCCHC will connect you with volunteer training and opportunities to make a difference in the life of someone in recovery or in some other capacity to help combat this crisis. KCCHC also seeks pledges in any amount to support prevention and treatment of substance use disorder.  Please contact Connie Putnam at KCCHC, at 236-6313, extension 1, with questions or offers of support.

Your financial support will include a rigorous screening process to ensure assistance goes to individuals most in need, and to the right community programs, in a way that will have the most impact. A small administrative portion of donations will be needed to ensure that the greatest need is met and funds are spent properly and wisely.  Otherwise, 100% of your donations will go directly to fight this epidemic.

Volunteer Opportunities

KCCHC is available to help direct you to a number of volunteer opportunities to help individuals and families affected by substance use and its devastating consequences.  Some of these include joining the Knox County Homeless Coalition, The Restorative Justice Project, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, Volunteers of America and many others. KCCHC can help direct you to the activity that best suits your interests and skills.

Update - Plans for a Knox County “Community Investors Initiative”

On March 8, I joined a group of organizations and individuals under the leadership of Penquis, the federally supported Community Action Program in Knox County, to create a Community Investors program. It will be modeled on the successful program that has been active in Waterville for the past year, which unites local charitable organizations into a cohesive unit to respond to individual and family needs, to help with food, housing and/or transportation assistance, medical care expenses and more. We hope that by this summer, people will be able to sign up as Community Investors. Investors would receive group-email requests to respond to the needs of individuals and families as they do in Waterville. In less than one year, Waterville's Community Investors numbers have grown from 90 to 238.

Everyone interested in being kept informed about Neighbors Helping Neighbors activities and about the Community Investor program as it is developed is encouraged to e-mail (or call or text 370-9881).