By Jon Stinson
Brewer- At the height of the opioid crisis in Maine, it’s hard to see through the slew of overdoses and those dealing with addiction to the positive forces working against them. For those on the outside looking in, the crisis can seem hopeless; it’s a product of over-prescription, income inequality, and the extremely addictive nature of the substance derived from opium. At the heart of the epidemic are people facing staggering financial, social, and physical barriers to getting better.
The greater Bangor area is often seen as the Northernmost hub of the problem, in the fight against the rampant spread of opiates are a number of non-profit and clinical organizations. One such organization is Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine.
Higher Ground provides case management services and counseling to those attempting to seek help in their journey to recovery; they have a number of passionate, educated staff members working on the front lines of the crisis to get those who are suffering the care they need and deserve.
Recent intern Darian Hughes is getting to learn first hand the impact Higher Ground has on the community. In the midst of working on a masters degree in social work, Darian serves as a community level social worker helping out at Higher Grounds and the associated Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN).
“Working at the agency has taught me more than I’ve gotten in my in-class studies, it truly feels like I’ve been given the chance to teach people how to thrive.” Says Hughes.
Both Higher Ground and the BARN serve entwined roles in the community, they’re so close-knit that even the leadership is often shared. Higher Ground Services executive director Jim LaPierre also serves on the board of directors for the BARN. While HGS provides individual help through case management and counseling, just down the street the BARN serves the community by serving as the meeting place for addicts anonymous, and Young People in Recovery, meanwhile providing nonprofit services to help the underprivileged.
“While mostly directed at those with substance use disorders, Young People in Recovery impacts even more of the community at large. Meetings are open to anyone who may be affected by the disorder, even indirectly.” Explained Hughes.
Hughes has been involved in a number of support group meetings and Medicaid sign-up clinics, most recently she took part in a Narcan training class. Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, has seen increased prevalence due to the widespread effects of the opioid crisis. As a new administration enters the Blaine House with a new focus on addressing the crisis, a new light will be shined on the various services available for those in need. One of Governor Janet Mills first actions was an executive order to increase Narcan training and availability. In the meantime organizations like the BARN and Higher Grounds will continue serving those at the most vulnerable points in their lives.