A new pilot program hopes to spark conversation about recovery in Piscataquis County

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Central Hall Commons is hosting its first Recovery Cafe, a pilot program, later this month, meant to serve as a weekly gathering for Piscataquis County residents to share their struggles with sobriety and exchange ideas related to recovery and resources in the community.

As drug overdose deaths continue to rise across Maine, creators of the Recovery Cafe say there is a serious need for community conversation and empowerment, along with more resources for individuals healing from addiction and their loved ones, in rural areas especially. 

The pilot program is meant to serve as a safe space and springboard for ideas, and it will be evaluated after about three months.

“We’re going to start out very small,” said Georgia Underwood, recovery coach coordinator in Piscataquis County for Healthy Acadia’s Maine Alliance for Recovery Coaching Program. “The conversations are going to be about recovery and the fact that we honor all pathways to recovery. And that recovery is a community issue.”

The effort is a collaboration between Healthy Acadia’s recovery coaching program, Central Hall Commons and the Eastern Maine Development Corporation.

The first Recovery Cafe gathering is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, at Central Hall Commons, 152 E. Main St., Dover-Foxcroft. Refreshments will be provided. The Recovery Cafe will continue meeting at the same time every Wednesday.

“We welcome people in recovery, recovery allies and those who have been affected by another’s substance use,” Underwood said, adding the community will determine the direction the program takes, depending on people’s wants and needs.

Seana Collins, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Central Hall Commons, recognizes that discussing addiction and recovery isn’t always easy, but she hopes to eventually see regular engagement at the Recovery Cafe — maybe even enough to create a committee that could work to bring more resources to the community.

“We don’t have a detox center or a rehab center in the area,” she said. “It’s about breaking down the stigma, giving it a voice. Silence is what kills people with substance use disorder.”

Across Maine, overdose deaths have been steadily increasing. Between January and August of this year, 155 people died from drug overdoses, according to data from the Maine Drug Data Hub.

The data, updated quarterly, is provided through a partnership between the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the University of Maine. In the first quarter of 2020, the fatal drug overdose count was 127. And in the first quarter of 2019, the fatal drug overdose count was 74.

Barbara Skinner, a workforce development specialist at Eastern Maine Development Corporation, recently got involved in the Recovery Cafe planning because it’s a chance to connect those affected by substance use disorder to education, training and employment opportunities. Funds are available through the Connecting with Opportunities Initiative, a statewide grant, she said.

“I saw the needs of folks in our community and lack of recovery services,” said Skinner, who previously worked as a mental health case manager. “Folks have to go so many miles away from their natural supports to go somewhere for treatment.”

Underwood noted that there are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups that meet consistently in Piscataquis County, but for people who want to take a different route, there aren’t many options.

“We’re not a very friendly recovery community, and I would like to see that change,” she said, noting it could take some time. “I look at Bangor and Millinocket, and I see there are recovery centers and how they are attracting people from all varieties of life and providing purpose for folks in recovery.”

Other events

Central Hall Commons is hosting several other upcoming events related to recovery. A full calendar of events is available on its website.

Virtual events take place via Zoom and are also livestreamed on the Central Hall Commons Facebook page.

–Meet the Author: Alison Jones Webb is scheduled for 3 p.m. Nov. 7, via Zoom. The discussion will focus on a book Webb is writing, “Second Chances: Addiction, Hope and Recovery in Our Communities,” which will take a public health approach to recovery support. The Maine-based writer has interviewed people in recovery, researchers and advocates “to define recovery and provide community actions and public health interventions,” according to her website.–Common Conversation: Discussion on Drug Policy is scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 18, via Zoom. Elizabeth Davis, who studies political science at the University of Maine, will lead the conversation. She completed a drug policy research fellowship at the university.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.