Sep. 10—LEWISTON — Dozens of local organizations will be on hand next week for a "Rally for Recovery" in Kennedy Park — a showcase of resources dedicated to helping people struggling with opioid addiction.
The three-hour event in Kennedy Park, hosted by the Lewiston Area Public Health Committee, comes as Maine continues to see high numbers of overdoses and overdose deaths, as well as a shortage of the lifesaving anti-overdose drug naloxone.
It will feature testimonials from people in recovery as well as health officials, performances and information on resources from nearly 20 local organizations.
Corrie Brown, a LAPHC member and the substance misuse and tobacco prevention manager at Healthy Androscoggin, said the committee hopes its first ever rally can be a grassroots effort to highlight the services available in the community.
"The purpose of the rally is to create a venue whereby supporters of people who need recovery as well as folks who are in recovery can come together and learn more about available resources, all while creating a stronger recovery community," she said.
September is considered National Recovery Month, with a goal to educate communities that substance use treatment and mental health services can help those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life, Brown said.
A city news release said the LAPHC has been concerned about the number of opioid-related deaths across the nation and decided to bring together different agencies that have a "heart for recovery."
The free event is meant for those struggling with addiction, in recovery from addiction, those who have lost a loved one to addiction, and those who are providing support for a loved one, the release states.
"It is also a way to celebrate those in recovery, as well as their family, friends and loved ones," Brown said. "This month reinforces the positive messages that recovery and mental health is essential to the overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can, and do recover."
According to a May report released by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the University of Maine, there were 3,222 reported fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses in Maine between January and May, with 247 resulting in death. The state reported 504 drug overdose deaths in 2020.
Through June of this year, Androscoggin County had recorded 40 overdose deaths. The county saw a total of 52 in 2020.
According to the news release, the event will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will include a presentation by by Dr. Paul Vinsel of Tri-County Mental Health Services, a physician prescriber for its Opioid Health Home Service in Lewiston.
In addition to his work at TCMHS, Vinsel practices as an emergency department staff physician at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and as the physician lead for the emergency induction medication assisted treatment program at Bridgton Hospital in Bridgton.
Also on the schedule is a performance by Maine Inside Out, an arts program for formerly incarcerated youth, and live music from Dave Bilodeau and Charlie Ames. There will also be taped testimonials available for viewing, and a tented area where individuals can decompress and talk with someone if in need.
The Green Ladle food truck will be on site, and according to the release, local organization Recovery Connections is providing a dunk tank for the day. Children attending the event "can enjoy dunking local school resource officers, law enforcement officials, and a representative from Tri-County Mental Health," it states.
The Lewiston Youth Advisory Council will also be providing face painting for children.
Formed in 2016 by the City Council, LAPHC is a public health advisory board to municipal elected officials on policy issues and works collaboratively with other municipal committees and community partners on issues related to public health.
Bill Wallace, vice chairman of LAPHC, said substance use disorder is an issue that not only affects the victim, but has wide-ranging effects on families, friends, co-workers and neighbors who know the victim.
"It used to be looked on as a flaw in a person's character, but we have come to understand that this is false, and that root causes are complex and vary from victim to victim," he said. "Like any other health issue, victims of substance use disorder need treatment and compassionate care to heal and recover. At this point in our history, when we are so laser-focused on health and social justice issues, the time for 'Rally For Recovery' and attention to substance use disorder is right now."
Information and resources will be available at tables, including from Tri-County Mental Health, An Angel's Wing, Groups Recover Together, Nar-Anon, Safe Voices, Recovery Connections, The R.E.S.T. Center, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, Celebrate Recovery, God's Plus, Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, Healthy Androscoggin, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Maine Recovery Advocacy, Maine Rap, Blue Sky Counseling, Avalon Counseling, Journey Magazine, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, and the Lewiston Area Public Health Committee.