BANGOR, Maine — Officials at Wellspring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, a residential and outpatient services program in Bangor, have been searching without success since October 2016 for housing for a 10-bed detoxification center, said Suzanne Farley, Wellspring’s executive director.
“We are having a hard time finding a suitable property,” Farley said Thursday. “That’s something we are really worried about at this point.”
The state awarded the organization $1,167,000 to start a “residential social setting detoxification center.” The two-year contract was set to begin in November and run through July 2018, but Wellspring and state officials are still negotiating contract details, Farley said.
The executive director said that while the negotiations have bought Wellspring more time, the struggle to find an appropriate venue “has always been at the height of our concern.”
“We knew that going into it, finding the right property would be a great concern,” Farley added. “Clearly the need exists. We are limited to 10 beds at this time because of funding, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need that is greater than that.”
Farley attributes Wellspring not finding an appropriate facility yet to some landlords’ stereotypical misunderstanding of or distaste for detox facilities, but also to the facility having particular requirements not easy to find in most rentals.
One building Wellspring examined lacked sprinkler systems. Another was just slightly too small. A third had windows too small to comply with fire codes. Many buildings that are available are just too big or not located in the right planning zones, Farley said.
“The fire codes are pretty stringent, as you might expect,” she said. “We don’t need a big, big gigantic building.”
The state has a great need for treatment facilities. Maine had 286 overdose deaths through the end of September 2016. That exceeds the number for all of 2015, when there were 272 overdose deaths in Maine, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
The numbers for the last quarter of 2016 haven’t been compiled yet, said Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, on Friday.
Of the 286 deaths, 195 were because of at least one illicitly manufactured drug such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or nonpharmaceutical fentanyl, alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol, and 182 were because of illicitly manufactured opioid drugs (including heroin/morphine, nonpharmaceutical fentanyl and its analogues, U-47700 and kratom), alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol, according to the attorney general’s office.
There were 176 drug overdose deaths in 2013, and 208 people in Maine died by overdose in 2014.
With 10 beds, the facility could serve about 100 people per month, according to Patty Hamilton, Bangor’s public health director and chairwoman of Bangor’s Community Health Leadership Board, which advocated for the detox center.
Wellspring officials continue to negotiate the details of the state contract. When that is done, they expect to start hiring at least 10 addiction counselors, a program director and other staff, Farley said.
If all goes well, Wellspring hopes to find and move into a new facility within four months of the completion of negotiations, she said.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.