Portland 'hub' helps spread peer recovery across Maine

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PORTLAND — Not all roads to recovery from substance use disorders start in the city.

There’s one that will lead in different directions throughout the state.

“We are at the very beginnings, but these communities are very excited and starting up,” Portland Recover Community Center Director Leslie Clark said Oct. 18.

PRCC, 468 Forest Ave., is at the center of a “hub and spokes” plan spreading peer-led recovery efforts to seven communities. The program is funded with a two-year, $600,000 grant from the Maine Department of Health & Human Services.

“We will be the model for those centers to start and get going,” Clark said. “It means helping with programming, training recovery coaches, and developing recovery boards in their own communities.”

Central to the effort is peer leadership to help people set and stay on a course for recovery.

Clark, who succeeded Steve Cotreau at PRCC last year, said peer leadership has been the essential component there since it was founded in 2011.

“I find the trick is to make sure everything is in place, but everything that happens within the structure comes from the people who come here,” she said.

Centers are open or will be opened in Bath, Bridgton, Boothbay, Calais, Caribou, Houlton and Machias. While opioid use and addiction has garnered a great deal of attention, the centers are there to foster recovery from any substance use disorder.

“There is so much of everything – drugs, alcohol, people who are seeking treatment from gambling,” Lakes Region Recovery Center Director Tracy Martin said Oct. 18.

Sited on the Bridgton Memorial Hospital, the LRRC opened in August and has served about 100 people throughout Cumberland and Oxford counties, Martin said.

With counseling, therapy and housing nearby, the Lakes Region center can provide help in an area in need, but Martin said transportation and an overall dearth of services are still problems.

“If somebody needs a detox, we may have to send them to Portland,” she said.

Martin embraces the peer-to-peer model.

“I think if you are just real and kind with people, they want to know it is a safe, nonjudgmental place to be,” she said. “You can just sit down with a cup of coffee, not have to worry about someone taking notes.”

At the Bath Peer Learning Center, in First Baptist Church, 851 Washington St., peer coordinator Patrick Metro looks forward to a flow of information.

“I look at it mainly as the ability to share ideas. All the communities are going to be different. What is working in Portland might not work in Bath, but they are going to come up with ideas,” he said.

Peers in recovery can help counsel and encourage others and are also there for support if someone relapses.

“The path is not always smooth, sometimes we wander off the trail,” Clark said. “You need people along the way to say, ‘The path is over there and this is how I got back.’”

Metro said distance can be detrimental, but companionship is critical.

“People who come in want to make friends, be part of the community and realize they are not alone,” he said.

As PRCC adds staff serving the hub, it will also update the available resources throughout the state to add to the 211 Maine directory accessible online and by phone.

Clark said the community recovery centers will also offer the “Prime for Life” prevention program created by the Prevention Research Institute.

Community will be the core, and Martin said the Bridgton area is already supportive. 

“It is not hush-hush anymore, everybody is asking, ‘What can we do, how do we help,'” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Seen with former PRCC program director Steve Cotreau in 2017, present Director Leslie Clark is now helping to bring peer-led recovery efforts to seven Maine communities.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.