Steps toward recovery: Portland fundraising walk fights substance use disorders

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PORTLAND — Almost two years ago, Laurie Bachelder and her children watched a man overdose in Deering Oaks Park.

“His body was kind of cringing and folding,” Bachelder recalled May 25. “He had a needle in his arm, he was turning blue.”

The incident led Bachelder to take steps to help fight an epidemic she fears will “destroy a generation.”

The public is invited to join Bachelder’s journey at 9:30 a.m. June 10 for the second annual Walk to Help ME Recover. The fundraiser begins at Payson Park, where people will speak about recovery from substance use disorders, followed by a 3.5-mile walk along Back Cove Trail. Donations are not required to participate in the walk.

“You can beat this, and the non-recovery side of the community needs to know this,” Bachelder said.

Unaware of the increase in heroin use, and shaken by what she saw in the park that day in August 2015, Bachelder began looking for ways to help.

“I thought of the (overdose victim’s) mother,” she said. “How did that man end up on the pavement in a public place?”

Bachelder’s search for answers led to Crossroads, a city treatment center, and then to Portland Recovery Community Center, 468 Forest Ave.

Her introduction to PRCC Program Director Stephen Cotreau came on a frustrating day when he could not find treatment for a client.

“It was the same day a young man came in looking for help. He had insurance, and the thing that was completely different was, he handed me his dope. No one had ever done that,” Coutreau said May 25.

When Cotreau stepped outside with the young man, he met Bachelder.

“It was the first time a (directly) unaffected community member came in and said ‘there is an epidemic, what do I do?'” Coutreau said.

Some money raised from the upcoming walk will help PRCC; the rest goes to Help ME Recover, founded by Bachelder to bring knowledge, understanding and funding to help people in recovery.

“I had to pick a spot. My spot is people who have been through rehab and are in recovery, keeping them there,” Bachelder said. Her work is not limited to people recovering from opioid addiction.

Besides the strength of her commitment, Cotreau said Bachelder’s work as a financial adviser helped open doors in the business community for support.

“I don’t have time to just start cold-calling businesses. She can reach people I could never reach,” Cotreau said.

The support has meant new carpets and other donations to PRCC, but far more important, Bachelder is able to help people in recovery pay for stable and sober housing.

“By the time you come out of rehab, you may have burned your bridges,” she said.

Once housing is stable, Bachelder has also been able to get volunteers to mentor people in recovery, to help with resumes and other life skills. Even small donations of personal care items can go a long way.

“You are not supposed to sweat the small stuff, but if you are inundated with a million small things, it can rock your world,” Cotreau.

Equally important to Bachelder is making the public aware recovery is possible. She learned the overdose victim in Deering Oaks survived, but has yet to meet him.

“I have met amazing people,” she said. “Some have relapsed, some are in recovery. They are doing the work, but when they get out (of rehab), where are the resources?”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

After witnessing a drug overdose in Deering Oaks Park in 2015, Portland resident Laurie Bachelder founded Help ME Recover to assist people with substance use disorders.

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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.