Tony, about to be released from an intensive therapy program designed to help keep him free of his addiction, expressed some nervousness about the prospect. But he knew the day was coming when he would graduate, and prepared for it as best he could.

“I’m starting to love me again,” he said in an interview in mid-July. “I am the person I used to be.”

Tony has been in a therapy program operated by Southern Maine Health Care’s behavioral health program ”“ an option for people who find themselves in the throes of addiction and are trying the best they can to climb out of it.

Addiction gnaws at you. Detoxing from opiates like heroin makes you sick, and the temptation to give in to stop the vomiting, the chills, the diarrhea and associated symptoms sometimes wins; often wins. That’s what the people addicted to heroin say.

Those in the health care industry and law enforcement say heroin use is epidemic in Maine these days. There are often overdoses, as evidenced by the uptick in the administration of the overdose drug Narcan, and there have been deaths. Deaths from various drug overdoses spiked to 208 in 2014. Fifty-seven deaths were attributed to heroin overdoses statewide n 2014, up from 34 the year before.

But for many who get treatment and are able to stick with it, there is eventual victory and freedom.

So what are the resources in York County for people trying to climb out of the heroin abyss?

Health care providers and the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services outlined some options. Some are located in York County, others are in Cumberland County.

Liza Little, the senior director of behavioral health services at Southern Maine Health Care and Clinical Director Linda Brown described the agency’s intensive outpatient program that typically includes three 50-minute sessions a day, three days a week and can include medication like Vivitrol, that can help ease cravings. Little and Brown said there are cases where suboxone or methadone are appropriate. And while they acknowledge there can be a dependency on those drugs as well, their use allows people to hold a job and maintain their lives, they pointed out.

Little said the agency sees 50 to 60 new faces each month. The intensive therapy programs run 4-6 weeks.

As to detox, these days, Little and Brown look to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston or Milestone Foundation in Portland for those seeking inpatient detox ”“ that initial period when someone is withdrawing from drug use. As well, Southern Maine Health Care operates an inpatient program for people with who have acute mental health issues and addiction.

Another nearby inpatient detox program, at Mercy Hospital’s Recovery Center in Westbrook, is scheduled to close later this month.

Bob Fowler, director of the Milestone Foundation, said the closure of the Mercy detox program is prompting a spike in calls requesting detox to the agency he heads. The Milestone Foundation operates a 41-bed emergency homeless shelter for men addicted to alcohol or drugs and a 16-bed medically managed detox program for men and women, both in Portland, as well as a 16-bed residential program for men in Old Orchard Beach.

Those in the medical field point out that unlike detox from alcohol, withdrawal from heroin and other opiates can take place outside a residential setting ”“ hospitalization is not considered medically necessary. But, Fowler points out, that to do so is “exceedingly difficult.”

York County Shelters operates three licensed residential programs for opiate dependency, available to those who have already detoxed and who are homeless. They include Serenity House in Portland and Angers Farm in West Newfield, which are both designed for men, and provide 24-hour care for six months. The shelter itself, on Shaker Hill in Alfred, is open to men and woman, according to Clinical Director Jen Ouellette. She said the shelter also provides outpatient programs that include individual and group counseling, along with other services, like 12-step programs, open to the public.

Crossroads operates outpatient counseling programs for men and women in Kennebunk and some other locations, and two residential programs for women, located in Cumberland County.

Our Father’s House, located in Saco, provides an array of faith-based programs.

Tracy Weymouth, a health program manager in the state Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, said in addition to programs already mentioned, there are other options for people seeking addiction therapy. Among them are Maine Behavioral Health in Biddeford and Sanford; York Hospital; Sweetser in Biddeford and Saco; Saco River Health Services in Waterboro, Health Affiliates of Maine in Old Orchard Beach and York; and Spectrum Health Systems in Sanford, which offers methadone therapy,

Weymouth also referred people to the website 211maine.org or to the state’s substance abuse website at: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]



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