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Cary Will Convene Town Hall Meeting to Address Drug Problem

Cary Medical Center will convene a Town Hall – style community meeting on Thursday, May 11 at 6:30 pm at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.  The focus of the meeting is to organize a locally based, ‘Grass Roots’ effort to build upon and strengthen the existing community response to substance abuse issues impacting the region.  Bill Flagg, Director of Community Relations and Development at the hospital said that the effort is being made possible by a grant from the District Coordinating Council for Public Health or DCC.

“The DCC has provided a small grant to Cary to organize this community response to this very tragic issue”, said Flagg who is chairing a project committee.  “Nearly every week we are learning of another overdose and some result in death right here in the County.  But the statistics don’t really tell the story.  These individuals are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends and their deaths create such pain and grief.  The only way to effectively respond to this crisis is to get the entire community engaged.”

Eleven years ago, responding to a similar crisis, the Caribou Alcohol Drug Education Team or CADET, held a public meeting which drew some 1700 people to Caribou High School.  The Performing Arts Center was full to capacity and spill over crowds were seated in the cafeteria watching the meeting on live video.  It was one of the largest public gatherings ever at the school.

Mark Shea, Project Director for the Power of Prevention program and who manages the Drug Free Communities Aroostook Substance Abuse Prevention Program said that while he does not expect a similar size crowd on May 11th, he hopes that there will be a solid response and that people will come to the meeting prepared to get involved.

“There are many parts to this substance abuse issue”, said Shea who also serves as community outreach for the DFC grant.  “That is why we need the entire community to come together and collectively help come up with solutions.  The more people are involved and the more different perspectives presented can really help generate some creative ideas”.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has recently released statistics for the State of Maine on the number of deaths caused by drugs.  In 2016, 376 deaths in the State were ‘drug-induced’.  A ‘drug death’ is identified when    One or more drugs are involved “as a cause or significant contributing factor for the death”.

Jan Jackson, Community Outreach Worker for the Drug Free Communities grant said that the increase in drug related deaths has touched many families in Northern Maine.

“Many of us have personal connections to individuals who have died tragically from a drug overdose”, said Jackson who is coordinating the Town Hall Meeting.  “Unfortunately the numbers of drug related deaths are continuing to climb up more than 40% in 2016.  As a community we must get and retain people to collectively continue to work in an organized way to meet the recovery needs of the Caribou community”.

The May 11th community meeting is just the beginning of an effort to strengthen the ‘recovery community’.    The DCC grant also provides for efforts to increase the number of support group meetings, including AA and Narcotics Anonymous.  Flagg said he also hopes to make more people aware of resources that are available.  The Aroostook Substance Abuse Prevention program has published a substance abuse resource directory and the program is now in the process of updating the publication.  According to Mark Shea the publication has been widely distributed.

“The response to the directory has been amazing”, said Shea.  “Organizations from throughout the County requested additional copies and we are making every effort to keep it up to date.”

The format of the community meeting will include testimonies from individuals who have suffered the loss of family members to drug overdose as well as individuals who are in recovery.  Following the speakers, the film, Anonymous People will be presented.  A general discussion will follow the film.  Individuals attending the meeting will be asked to sign up for various volunteer committees who will carry the effort forward.

“This is not going to be a one-shot deal”, said Peter McCorisson, Director of Substance Abuse Services at the Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC).  “We are counting on members of our community, civic organizations and others to step up and work together to impact this problem.  It will take all of us if we hope to stem this growing crisis.  We do have elements of a Recovery Community in place now but we need to do more and build upon the existing infrastructure”.

AMHC and another local agency, Life by Design, are working with Cary to organize the effort to address the growing drug overdose problem.  The Caribou Police Department, area pharmacies, other health care providers, individuals in recovery and families impacted by the issue are invited to participate.  To join the effort or learn more about the May 11th community meeting, please call Cary Community Relations at 498-1112 or by email bflagg@carymed.org.

 

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