The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Maine $6.2 million to pay for job training and other services aimed at getting almost 700 people affected by the state’s opioid crisis into the workforce.
The grant aims to help people in nine Maine counties who are either in recovery from substance use disorder or want to work in the substance use treatment field to enter the workforce.
Bangor-based Eastern Maine Development Corp. collaborated with the Maine Department of Labor on the grant proposal and helped develop a strategy that allows organizations across the state to receive funding to expand services for people in recovery.
The money became available after the federal government declared the opioid addiction crisis a national public health emergency in October 2017. Some $2 million of the grant money is available immediately.
Some of the money will go toward creating peer counselor jobs across the state and training the counselors, said Lee Umphrey, the Eastern Maine Development Corp.’s president and CEO. Peer counselors are people in recovery who support others dealing with substance use disorder in one-on-one and group settings.
Some of the money could also pay for an expansion of career counseling and skills training for people in jail or recently released from jail, Umphrey said.
In 2017, the year the public health emergency was declared, Eastern Maine Development Corp. started a Recovery Workforce Initiative in collaboration with the Northeastern Workforce Development Board to help people battling addiction who were in jail or recently released from jail. In Hancock County, the organizations offered career counseling and skills training to 67 people between January 2017 and May 2019.
This is the kind of program the organization hopes to expand with the new grant funding, Umphrey said.
“It’s hard to do work without having the resources, so these additional resources are essential for us to do more and do better,” he said.
Grant funds will also flow to other community groups and nonprofits across the state so they can expand training services at recovery centers and jails.
In addition to Eastern Maine Development Corp., organizations including the Aroostook Community Action Program, Franklin County-based Western Maine Community Action, Goodwill Northern New England and the state Department of Labor’s CareerCenters will offer these services.
“There’s a real need with people in recovery,” Umphrey said. “Part of our effort at EMDC will be to work closely with other organizations that provide services and also strengthen our work with the drug courts and the system to make sure that people in recovery are going to be successful.”