New Federal Grants To Fund Work To Fight Addiction Stigma


Healthy Acadia and the Aroostook Mental Health Center, both of which won $ 1 million in federal grants last week to fight the opioid epidemic, will use the money primarily for community-based prevention and control initiatives. training.

A total of 502 Mainers died from overdoses last year, and there were around 360 overdose deaths at the end of July this year. Almost half of all Americans know someone addicted to prescription pain relievers, and 20% know someone who has died of an overdose, according to a 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

But in rural Maine, advocates said the stigma surrounding substance use disorders is still killing people.

The new grant will be used primarily to raise awareness and expand resources to schools and primary care offices where more people could access them.

“It’s one thing to have all these different options. It’s great to have all kinds of different services. It’s great that they are available, ”said Erik Lamoreau, coordinator of the Aroostook mental health project. “But at the end of the day, none of this is good if we don’t have someone to lead it, work in it and participate in it.”

The US Health Resources and Services Administration has earmarked rural community opioid response program grants to be used specifically to establish and expand certain prevention, treatment, and recovery programs. As examples, he lists implementing drug recovery, training more peer recovery coaches, and teaching health and social service providers to identify symptoms of substance use disorders.

“If someone comes to a dentist… and somehow that dentist finds out that they have a substance use disorder, that dentist might not be. not ready to support that person, ”said Caroline Bloss, director of recovery programs for Healthy Acadia.

Although the funds have been allocated specifically to Healthy Acadia and Aroostook Mental Health, both groups work with health care centers, as well as with advocacy and law enforcement groups in Hancock counties. , Washington and Aroostook, which will also implement programs using the funding.

Aroostook Mental Health, for example, is championing an initiative with funds to give naloxone to every incarcerated person upon release from the Aroostook County jail, Lamoreau said.

U.S. Senator Angus King – alongside U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Representative Jared Golden – supported the Aroostook Center for Mental Health grant application in February. Local organizations are often in the best position to deal with the opioid epidemic in Maine, where the needs of different communities vary widely, King said.

“Particularly in rural areas, it’s often a matter of personal contact and trust,” King said. “Clients, patients, people with this terrible disease need to feel that they know who they are dealing with and that there is a community behind the treatment.

Building trust means making it easier for people to ask for help and teaching the community how to respond when it happens, said Penny Guisinger, director of Acadia’s health recovery programs. When people with substance use disorders don’t come on, it is often fear.

“It’s about the perception of people: not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be judged,” Guisinger said.

Lamoreau, who is himself in recovery, conducted a community survey earlier this year to determine what programs were needed to address substance use disorders in Aroostook County. After interviewing people in active addiction, recovery and the wider community, he said training has become one of the main needs.

Common misconceptions about drug addiction – that it’s a personal choice, that people don’t get well – stem from decades of harsh legal penalties and few medical resources for people with drug-related disorders. ‘substance use, Lamoreau said. Having a criminal record for drug possession always makes it difficult to get a job, even when a person has been sober and has been recovering for years, he said.

To turn the corner, Lamoreau said the war on drugs and its punitive approach to drug addiction must end.

“We need to spark people’s passion, we need to engage people and we need to start talking about it more,” said Lamoreau. “The more we talk about it, the more it is available, the more resources will come. “

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