Mainers in recovery are already part of our communities. Treatment services must be, too.

By BDN Editorial Board

Time after time, Maine communities debate a new project or zoning proposal, only for it to be met with the same tired argument: “I support addressing the overall issue, just not here. Not in my neighborhood. Not in my downtown.” 

This type of resistance pops up all over the state. The opposition to a now-scuttled affordable housing project in Cape Elizabeth included this approach. And now we see shades of it in the wariness from some in Dover-Foxcroft about a proposed downtown opioid addiction treatment center. 

On Thursday, the Dover-Foxcroft Planning Board is slated to receive a presentation about the project. Some residents have already expressed opposition online, raising concerns about its proposed location downtown and the potential impact on area businesses and future investment. 

“The reason is not because I’m insensitive to people who need addiction treatment,” one local business owner said, preferring to see the treatment center located closer to other medical buildings in town, as reported by the BDN’s Valerie Royzman. “We’re trying to attract new residents and businesses from outside of Maine. We’re trying to grow the area. There’s a stigma attached to the Suboxone clinics. Right, wrong or indifferent, there’s a stigma there.”

Here’s an idea: Instead of fearing the stigma, join the ongoing work to destigmatize it. Realize (and help others realize) that people in recovery are already part of the Dover-Foxcroft community. They are as central to Maine communities as any downtown area. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members. They work at local businesses, they shop at local businesses, they own local businesses. 

David McDermott, who is vice president of medical affairs and a senior physician executive at Northern Light hospitals in Dover-Foxcroft and Greenville, did not advocate for this proposal specifically because he only had basic information about its services. But he emphasized the need for more evidence-based treatment options in the area. 

“We have people who live in every one of our towns who are in various stages of recovery,” McDermott said, adding that many people of working age have to travel out of the area to receive treatment. 

If people in Dover-Foxcroft are concerned about economic development and attracting investment, they should also be concerned about supporting members of the existing workforce and business community. That involves access to recovery services. 

“The barriers to prescribing [medications for opioid use disorder] have gone down,” McDermott said. “It is becoming more accepted as people begin to understand that this is a disease that could affect anybody, that does affect our neighbors.” 

As a community, Dover-Foxcroft has an opportunity to be part of this increasing acceptance and recognition of its neighbors in recovery. As a state, communities across Maine need to stop identifying a need and deciding it is somebody else’s problem to fix. It is time to retire the constant “not in my backyard” approach. This is true for recovery services, affordable housing and other issues. 

Our advice to Dover-Foxcroft and to communities around the state: Recognize that your downtown area is exactly where you can help address community needs, together. And decide to break through stigma rather than bow to it.

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