Maine Focus

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative of the Bangor Daily News.

BANGOR, MAINE -- 03/20/2017 -- Rebecca Grant at the office where she currently works at St. Joseph Healthcare. She said it was a struggle to get by after she was laid off from FairPoint Communications in July 2015. 
Gabor Degre | BDN

5 lessons from a look at Maine’s workforce challenges

By Erin Rhoda on April 20, 2017, at 6:46 a.m.
The BDN’s Maine Focus team looked at what it would take for thousands more people to work. Here are five specific things we learned.
Rebecca Grant walks to the office where she currently works at St. Joseph Healthcare on March 20, 2017. She said it was a struggle to get by after she was laid off from FairPoint Communications in July 2015.

Politicans say they want people to work, but they ignore this fast route to a job

on April 17, 2017, at 6:28 a.m.
There’s a way to get more people out of poverty, but it’s a “bewildering maze.”
Maine Focus
I arrived home in probably less than optimal shape for parenting, but Beverly, a public health nurse, answered all my questions. She assured me that I was a good mother. This confidence enabled me to become a better parent.

How a public health nurse made a difference in the lives of my 3 kids

By Jules Hathaway on April 15, 2017, at 9:48 a.m.
I find the dismantling of the state’s public health nurse system to be morally reprehensible.
Maine Focus
Dr. Dora Anne Mills is vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England and is Maine’s former state health director.

What Mother Teresa helped me realize about rural Maine

By Dora Anne Mills on April 13, 2017, at 9:02 a.m.
“If where you are going, you will work with love, and love your work, that is where you are called to go.”
Maine Focus
Jon Hunt, known better as Twitch to his friends, walks through the Bangor Public Library on a sunny afternoon at the end of March. Twitch has never held an official job. He’s worked as a roofer, a blueberry raker and a construction worker, he said, but always under the table. Forty years ago, it was almost unheard of for a man of Twitch’s age to be out of the workforce, meaning neither working nor looking for work. But today, some 15 percent of Maine men ages 25 to 54 find themselves in that situation, according to the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.

Thousands of Maine men are missing from the workforce, and no one really knows why

By Rosie Hughes on April 11, 2017, at 6:34 a.m.
Men like Twitch find themselves “set adrift in a world they are not equipped to deal with.”
Amanda Rector, the state economist, talks to Magnetize Maine attendees in Bangor on March 31.

We asked how to attract younger people to Maine. Here’s what you said.

By Corlyn Voorhees on April 08, 2017, at 7:36 a.m.
You really like the idea of loan forgiveness.
Maine Focus
Over the last several years, the number of public health nurses has fallen by more than half.

LePage cut ranks of nurses who prevent outbreaks. Now lawmakers are trying to rebuild

By Matthew Stone on April 07, 2017, at 6:17 a.m.
In recent years, the number of public health nurses has fallen by more than half.
The Maine State House is pictured in January 2016.

LePage administration paid $315K for a consultant to rethink child care, then did nothing

By Matthew Stone on April 04, 2017, at 6:26 a.m.
The state told federal regulators it planned to carry out the consultant’s recommendations and re-upped with the consultant after its first proposal. But it appears there are no plans to follow through.
Sen. Angus King listens as Bucksport officials discuss the potential redevelopment of the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport. King is proposing an initiative to get rural Maine communities to think about their futures.

King wants rural towns to compete for money to turn around their future

By Matthew Stone on April 03, 2017, at 7:06 p.m.
If current trends hold, Maine’s rural regions are destined for a future in which communities will continue to shrink, and some might cease to exist as municipalities.
Ben Dionne stacks seeds on the shelves at Paris Farmers Union in Lewiston, where he works part-time. He was hired due to the help of vocational rehabilitation.

Workers with disabilities could be the secret to saving Maine’s future

on April 03, 2017, at 6:26 a.m.
When comparing the rates of employment among people with and without disabilities, Maine sees the greatest disparity in employment in the nation.
Salena Sawtelle, a certified nursing assistant at the Stillwater Health Care nursing home in Bangor, talks to Connie Drake before getting her ready for breakfast on Feb. 28

A Maine woman who protects the dying can barely afford to live

on March 27, 2017, at 6:22 a.m.
She is one of 24,000 workers whose wages have declined even as demand has grown, and have no clear way of getting ahead.
Maine Focus
A worker at Robbins Lumber in Searsmont monitors equipment on a recent rainy winter day.

Why we decided to look into the future of Maine’s workforce

By Erin Rhoda on March 20, 2017, at 6:11 a.m.
If nothing changes, experts expect to see limited business expansion and economic growth.
Megan Stover sits at the kitchen table after dinner with her three daughters (from left) Andie, 5, Madison, 10, and Nellie, 7, at their home in Scarborough.

How Maine is failing working parents by leaving millions unspent on child care

on March 20, 2017, at 6:08 a.m.
The typical cost of care for infants at a child care center, almost $9,700 annually, is more than in-state tuition at the University of Maine. Yet in each of the past four years, the state has simply not spent at least $4 million in federal funds meant to help working moms and dads.
Maine Focus
Telstar High School's front office is pictured Feb. 27, 2017.

A way rural Maine students can better understand their communities

By Erin Rhoda on March 03, 2017, at 10:10 a.m.
Here’s a way for high school students to think deeply about where they come from and their role in their community.
Maine Focus
Children's shoes are strewn on the floor of a home in Thomaston in this November 2016 file photo.

12,198 calls to Maine’s child abuse hotline went unanswered last year

By Erin Rhoda on March 02, 2017, at 7:06 a.m.
About 22 percent of calls — 12,198 out of 54,904 calls — weren’t answered on the first try in 2016.
Maine Focus
Sophomores at Telstar High School in Bethel on Monday brainstorm questions they'll ask community members about how they define community. From left, Selina Creelman, 15, of Bethel; Stephanie Geyer, 17, of Bethel; Georgia Piawlock, 15, of Bryant Pond; and Alexis Sing, 16, of Bryant Pond.

These students from Bethel are trying to define their place in rural Maine

By Erin Rhoda on Feb. 27, 2017, at 4:55 p.m.
“I feel like the future of rural communities is the kids who are in the classroom right now.”
Maine Focus
A young girl runs happy, laughing through lines of people participating in Hands Around Back Cove in Portland on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016.

We want your ideas for how to draw young people to Maine

By Erin Rhoda on Feb. 22, 2017, at 6:16 a.m.
People at the Magnetize Maine Summit will brainstorm ways to attract and keep more young people in Maine.
Maine Focus
Safi Paulo (center) is surrounded by her children shortly after returning home from work, checking Facebook on her smartphone while chatting with her sister-in-law Yalla Kaluta (not shown) and relaxing in the kitchen in the family's home in Thomaston.

When these refugees shared their loneliness, Maine overwhelmed them with kindness

By Rosie Hughes on Feb. 18, 2017, at 7:39 a.m.
More than 75 people said they would help the first refugee family to be resettled in small-town Maine, offering everything from land to farm, to rowing lessons, to help with babysitting.
Garrett Brown is pictured at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston on June 28, 2013. He died after overdosing on heroin in Augusta in November 2015.

What’s killing my classmates

By Chris Michaud on Feb. 13, 2017, at 12:30 p.m.
Out of the 23.5 million Americans suffering from drug addiction, 2 million are adolescents, ranging from ages 12 to 17.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is pictured in October 2014.

How $13M in unlawful spending took shape in Mary Mayhew’s DHHS

By Matthew Stone on Feb. 07, 2017, at 6:12 a.m.
Internal emails and other communications show that state finance staff questioned the Department of Health and Human Services’ plans to spend more than $13 million in ways that ran afoul of a federal law.