Somerset Public Health hosted a forum on Rural Communities Opioid Response on February 5, at the Palmyra Community Center. One of the early questions from their audience of concerned citizens summed up the obstacles to addiction recovery in rural Maine: “By the time somebody realizes they need help, they’ve probably lost their job, their friends, the ability to drive and their insurance – so how do they get help?”
The panel of professionals was on hand to field these questions and gather community input. The panel included Kristen Plummer, an outreach coordinator at KVCAP; Carla Stockdale, LCSW, Clinical Director at Kennebec Behavioral Health; Dr. Ann Dorney, family physician at Redington Fairview General Hospital; Sheriff Dale Lancaster and Chief Deputy Michael Mitchell of the Somerset County Sheriff Office; Matt L’Italien, Director of Somerset Health and William Mathias, a community member in recovery.
The following themes were reinforced by the community discussion with the panel:
- There are community members who want to help users and their families. Affected family members are also seeking support for themselves to cope with the stress of addicted loved ones.
- The disease of addiction is multi-faceted and has many components to it that need to be addressed.
- There is misinformation and social stigma that needs to be corrected by community education.
- Community members may not know where to go to get help, and treatment is limited in the rural communities.
The public input from the panel discussion will be used in forming future solutions to ease the local opioid crisis. The forum was made possible with The Rural Communities Opioid Response Planning Grant, which is a one-year federal grant. As part of the grant, a rural communities needs assessment was created that can be found at the Somerset Public Health website at www.somersetpublichealth.org/oud.
Dr. Ann Dorney is part of Gordon Smith’s statewide opioid task force and continues to provide the Somerset Public Health group with feedback from the state level.