February 19

Feature obituary: Dr. Stanley Evans, 78, Maine’s alcohol, drug treatment pioneer

Co-workers and former patients remember a man who had a passion for helping others recover from addiction.

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Stanley J. Evans, M.D., a pioneer in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction, who transformed the lives of thousands of Mainers in recovery programs across the state, died Sunday at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 78.

click image to enlarge

Dr. Stanley Evans, shown in 2002, is credited with helping to save the lives of hundreds of alcoholics and drug addicts. He founded detox and rehab centers in Portland and Bangor.

2002 Press Herald file photo/John Ewing

Dr. Evans founded and directed alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation centers at Mercy Hospital in Portland and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He moved to Florida in 2006, but had a private practice in Portland, using telemedicine to maintain a relationship with patients.

His career began in 1967 at Bangor Mental Health Institute as director of medical and surgical services. Soon after, he joined Eastern Maine Medical Center, where he worked as an assistant attending physician. Over the next few years, he saw a sharp increase in the number of people seeking treatment for alcoholism. In 1974, EMMC allowed Dr. Evans to use a few beds to treat those patients. In the first year, an estimated 200 people sought his help. Hospital officials then opened a 37-bed unit called the Alcohol Institute and named Dr. Evans its medical director. At the time, it was the only substance-abuse treatment facility in Maine.

In 1982, Dr. Evans established the Alcohol Institute at Mercy Hospital on State Street in Portland. At the time, it was 30-bed detoxification and rehabilitation program for adults and adolescents with substance-abuse issues. The facility, now called Mercy Recovery Center, moved to its current location in Westbrook around 2001. He served as medical director until he stepped down in 2005.

Glenda MacLachlan, who worked at Mercy Recovery Center with Dr. Evans for 20 years, said he had a passion for helping alcoholics and addicts. She said he had a gift for helping people see the truth about their drinking and using. She said he was honest and direct. Some welcomed his help. Others stormed out of his office, slamming the door behind them, she said.

“He would look people in the eye and say, ‘It’s cheaper than a funeral,’ ” MacLachlan said. “I watched him over the years not only show a great deal of compassion for his patients, but continue that through the years. He never gave up on people. ... He was wonderful at passing on the message of hope to people. No matter how bad they felt about themselves, he would tell them that they could make it in this new world of recovery. He said he would be right there for them and he was.”

One of his former patients, Thomas Dyro, of Portland, credits Dr. Evans and his staff for saving his life. He saw the doctor dozens of times between the early 1980s and 2000. Each time, Dr. Evans found a bed for him.

“They gave me so much love and so much hope,” Dyro said. “We know your are going to get this thing. They just inspired me. A lot of people had given up on me. He never did. It’s a huge loss. That man helped thousands and thousands of men and women. I’m grateful today. I’m free today. I’m free from the chains of this disease.”

Another patient, Leonard Gauba of Biddeford, said Dr. Evans helped him greatly in his recovery.

“He has saved so many lives throughout the state,” Gauba said. “I have attended 12-step programs from Fort Kent to New Hampshire. Everywhere you go, you hear his name. People just know Stan Evans. He’s an icon.”

In 1986, Dr. Evans founded and served as president and medical director of the Smith House, the first ambulatory rehabilitation treatment facility in Maine. It offered counseling, intensive outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization for patients.

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