New Center in Portland Takes Different Approach to Addiction Recovery


Reported By: Susan Sharon

Maine leads the nation in the per-capita rate of opiate addiction. At the same time, fewer than 10 percent of people who need treatment are able to access it. But now a new type of recovery center has opened. The Portand Recovery Community Center is the first of its kind in Maine, and one of about two dozen similar programs across New England. What sets it apart is that it's free and largely run by volunteers who are also in recovery.

First a little bit about what the Recovery Center is not. It's not a treatment center. It's not a crisis center. It's a peer-supported resource center for addicts in all stages of recovery, including those who've only just acknowledged that they have a problem.

"We expect that all kinds of people are going to be coming here, whether they're in treatment or not," says Deb Dettor of the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery, one of the center's organizers. "And so that could be somebody who's in methadone treatment might come here for recovery support, somebody who's going to AA might come here for recovery support, someone who is going to traditional treatment programs might come for support. So people from all the recovery pathways are all welcome to come here and receive support."

Susan Sharon: "What makes this different from Alcoholics Anonymous or NA--Narcotics Anonymous--or any other support group like that? Those are peer oriented. They're also free. What's different?"

Deb Dettor: "What I say to people is that those are strong and powerful programs. Not everybody uses the 12-step programs, and the 12-step programs don't work for everybody. We know that. And so programs like this are developing a wider net. So we have what is called 'All Recovery Support Meetings.' And All Recovery Support Meetings welcome people from all pathways and we'll talk about a recovery topic. So you can come and talk about today's topic, which might be staying clean and sober, and so you can come and talk with other people who are working on the same thing about what it's like for them."

Unlike 12-step program meetings, Dettor says these will be run by trained facilitators and will follow a structured format. But for those who do want 12-step, such as AA, NA and CA--Cocaine Anonymous--meetings will be offered at the center too.

"We are making our meeting space available to 12-step programs," says Peter Preble In fact we've got some NA meetings already scheduled. We've got a CA group that's going to try to get organized. So we're certainly supportive of somebody in a 12-step path but we offer some other structures to enhance that too."

The non-profit center, which does not require an appointment, will offer someone coming through the door peer coaching, including a personalized recovery plan, assistance with a job search and even parenting skills. And those who choose can also sign up for a telephone recovery support program, a sort of weekly check-in by a center volunteer who is also in recovery.

"And the calls are structured," Dettor says. "They're not like, 'Hey Joe, how's it going?' The callers follow a script. And so there's certain things that they're going to ask you about that relate to your recovery and they're going to follow up with your recovery plan, basically."

Dettor says Vermont pioneered the idea of peer recovery centers about a decade ago. And they've been catching on ever since. Connecticut, for example, is now making more than 600 check-in calls out of one center every week. And Dettor says the program has been able to demonstrate that people stay clean and sober longer with the peer suport and that there are fewer suicides.

Maine's program is funded by a state grant of nearly $300,000 to support a small paid staff and modest facilities on Forest Avenue in Portland. For Dettor, the program is a dream come true.

"I'm a person in longterm recovery, since 1985, and that's what fuels my passion around this work," she says. "I know, from experience, that I wouldn't be sitting here clean and sober for this long if I didn't have a lot of support in my community and a lot of people who circled me and said, 'Here's how I did it. Let me show you how to do it, let me get you where you need to go.'"

Organizers of the Portland Recovery Community Center also plan to make support services available to family members of people in recovery and to eventually expand to other parts of the state. They have a Facebook page that lists a schedule of meetings and events and hope to have a Web site soon.

Maine Public Broadcasting Network

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