MACHIAS, Maine — A grass-roots group of concerned residents has raised enough funds to make a down payment on a transitional home in Machias for Washington County women with drug or alcohol addictions.
“It has been an amazing year,” Recovery Support Network president June Ashmore said at the group’s annual meeting Thursday night.
After a spaghetti dinner, a panel discussion was held for the more than 50 attendees, during which the panelists discussed the lack of residential treatment centers in Washington County, jail versus treatment, and the impact addiction has on families and communities.
The speakers were Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith, Robert Tracy of Machias Savings Bank, Dr. Mark Kaplan of St. Croix Regional Family Health Center and Downeast Community Hospital and Abby Gray of the Regional Medical Center of Lubec.
RSN began meeting nearly four years ago to plan a transitional home for women in Washington County who have drug or alcohol addictions.
Marta Conlin of RSN said women in Washington County who are trying to recover from substance abuse face many barriers.
“Children to care for, partners who are also abusing substances, dysfunctional family life, low education level or employment skills, even transportation and reliable day care present difficulties to women,” she said. “Low self-esteem and lack of confidence or self-worth are often a woman’s deepest problem. There are few programs or places available in the state where women can enter into residential treatment, and only one in Maine that would allow their children to accompany them.”
Gray noted that as a recovering addict herself, she is intimately familiar with the obstacles addicts face.
“We are fighting a crippling battle but we lack resources for treatment. In Washington County we have no residential treatment. We have no halfway houses. We have no transitional homes,” she said. “We are sending our residents two to four hours away for treatment.”
Gray said the RSN transitional home could be a foundation and a pioneering effort for other such facilities in Washington County.
Smith pointed out that “jail is not working. When an addict gets to us [the corrections’ system], it is too late. They already have an addiction problem.” Smith said that 90 percent of inmates in the county jail have addiction issues. “You ask what substance abuse costs this county? $2.8 million, that’s the cost in this. That is my budget.”
Kaplan said that the problem is “mind-boggling. These are kids, 21, 22 years old. I sit there and listen to their stories, and it is heartbreaking. I cry sometimes.”
Kaplan said he is very concerned about the breakdown of the core family and the loss of spirituality.
Tracy said he deals with the affects of addiction on people’s financial status, which is often in tatters because of the addiction.
Kathy Miller of the Maine Lighthouse Project of Bar Harbor, which has served RSN as an organizing partner, said there are many fine outpatient programs in Washington County.
“But the need is for stable housing and care for these women’s children.
With a permanent home, recovering women could use local outpatient services while living in a safe and sober home environment. RSN envisions a clean, structured home environment for four to eight women and their children. Resident women could be working in the community, attending classes or doing service work.
“Over time, the women will gain the strength and abilities to move on to independent living,” Conlin said.
For information about donating to or participating in the project, call 207-263-6272 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.