Volunteers wanted at Portland recovery center

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PORTLAND — Steve Cotreau will not be posing for recruitment posters anytime soon, but he and city officials want help.

Help in the form of licensed social workers and counselors to volunteer at the Portland Recovery Community Center at 468 Forest Ave.

“I keep on saying there is a cap somewhere; I don’t know where it is,” Cotreau said March 4 about the increasing demand PRCC faces.

Opened in 2012 as a place where people in active recovery from substance use disorder could find help, direction and companionship, PRCC served 10,000 people in its first year. The number has increased to 28,000 last year, and Coptreau said the pace for this year is 36,000.

“It is about empowering people, so I want to know what people dream about and what they envision for not only their own personal recovery, but the community,” he said of peer services to help anyone with substance use disorders, including those recovering from opioid use while using methadone or suboxone.

Working on an annual budget of $285,600 in federal funding passed through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, PRCC has provided free services that include group meetings, telephone support and social gatherings such as open mic and movie nights and holiday parties.

Cotreau credited Chris Corson, who leads the city’s Overdose Prevention Project, with the idea for seeking volunteers, and said the licensed help is critical especially for those just beginning active recovery.

“We are asking people to donate clinical services to help provide a firmer foundation for early recovery,” he said.

Bridget Rauscher is the program coordinator for the city Substance Abuse Prevention Program. She said the program will soon be renamed to use the phrase “substance use disorder,” and the call for volunteers is a reflection on new persepctives of working with people actively seeking recovery.

“People are taking this on as a community issue, so maybe the community is ready to give back and be a part of the solution, especially in a place where there are not many options,” Rauscher said Tuesday.

She hopes volunteers can spare an hour a week at PRCC.

“Not everybody finds what they are looking for in a 12-step or peer-driven program,” she said. “At this point we are looking for anybody who has an independent license. I understand people don’t have a ton of time, so the more the merrier.”

Cotreau also worked to establish Scarborough’s Operation Hope, where he works with the Scarborough Police Department to place people in treatment centers.

At PRCC, the emphasis is on peer support, with the acknowledgement there may be missteps on the path to recovery.

“Why is it if people are trying to quit smoking it takes seven attempts?” Cotreau asked. “It tells me that it is six learning processes people go through. If a slip is a learning experience when it comes to quitting smoking, why is it not with substance use?”

PRCC volunteer Damian Gilbert said March 4 he has not used any substances for almost three months, but has made missteps that landed him in jail.

“When I got out, I got some clothes and I headed here,” Gilbert said. “I came here last year and had fallen off; this time I knew I needed to do something different.”

Now living in sober housing in the city, Gilbert said he just got a job and likes volunteering at PRCC.

“I have to keep moving forward to make progress. If I sit in my sober housing, things are not going to magically happen,” he said.

Interested volunteers can contact Cotreau at 553-2575 or scotreau@masap.org; or Rauscher at 874-8798 or bridget.rauscher@portlandmaine.gov.

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

PRCC program director Steve Cotreau said March 4 the Forest Avenue center needs volunteer social workers and counselors to help an ever-increasing number of people recovering from substance use disorder.

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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.