Bringing Communities Together To Address Opioid Addiction
As the opioid crisis continues to take lives, MaineHealth maintains its commitment to seeking innovative solutions to address this complex issue. The MaineHealth Opioid Work Group was formed in 2016 to develop a system-wide response that included a coordinated effort with all of MaineHealth’s local health systems and affiliates.
A key component involved the launch of the Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment (IMAT) program in 2017, led by Maine Behavioral Healthcare (MBH), the behavioral health service line for MaineHealth. IMAT provides medication-assisted therapy and counseling as an evidence-based approach to treating opioid use disorder. In 2018 the IMAT program treated over 1,000 patients.
Still, it is not enough.
Solving this problem takes communities coming together to discuss the issues, connect resources, share treatment options and promote understanding of an often emotional issue. In September 2018 MaineHealth and MBH invested in a unique approach to facilitate community dialogue through a series of free film showings of the Netflix original documentary “Recovery Boys.”
The film chronicles the journey of four young men attempting to rebuild their lives after years of drug misuse. Following the film, panel discussions were held involving local experts including IMAT physicians, local law enforcement and community leaders, and most importantly a patient in recovery. The program was presented across MaineHealth, with showings and discussions in Belfast, Biddeford, Boothbay, Brunswick, Camden, Damariscotta, Farmington, Islesboro, Portland, Rockland, Springvale, Vinalhaven, Waterville and North Conway, N.H. In all, more than 1,000 community members participated in an interactive dialogue to foster understanding and reduce stigma associated with opioid use disorder.
As Lisa Carbone, LCSW, Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician at Lincoln Medical Partners, noted at the Boothbay Harbor presentation, it is vital for communities to understand the nature of this disease and what it takes to overcome it. “I was humbled to hear people in recovery speak of their battles and triumphs and share their gratitude about being part of the solution,” she said. “They are living examples that our collaborative is working and that people are healing.”