Two months after a chance encounter with a heroin overdose spurred her to action, a Portland woman is hoping to organize a community response to connect those in need with others who want to help.

On Tuesday morning, the public is invited to the first meeting of what Laurie Bachelder described as a grassroots “community coalition” that brings together people who want to get involved in addressing Portland’s heroin and opiate addiction problem. Representatives of organizations that help those seeking to overcome their addictions, as well as people in recovery, will also attend the meeting, set for 9 a.m. at the Portland Recovery Community Center on Forest Avenue.

Bachelder said she hopes to hold similar meetings monthly even as she launches a Facebook page and a scholarship fund to help individuals recovering from substance abuse in the Portland area.

“It occurred to me that people want to help, but they just don’t know where to help or how,” Bachelder said Monday.

Bachelder was in the same position before an incident in Portland’s Deering Oaks park on July 28 changed her perspective on the growing heroin epidemic in Maine and around the country.

The Portland financial investment professional was near the Deering Oaks wading pool with her two young children that day when a man in his 20s collapsed on the pavement nearby. The man, who had a hypodermic needle still stuck in his neck, had overdosed and stopped breathing. While the man survived after being taken to the hospital, the incident jolted Bachelder into realizing that heroin was everywhere and could affect any family.

“After seeing that, I thought, ‘If I can help one person, then maybe that one person can help another person,'” Bachelder said at the time.

Days later, other Mainers would get a sense of the growing epidemic when news broke that Portland emergency crews responded to 14 opiate-related overdoses in a 24-hour period, two of which were fatal.

After her experience, Bachelder met with leaders at the Portland Recovery Community Center – a gathering place and support center for those struggling with addictions – to find out about how she could get involved.

A subsequent Portland Press Herald article on Bachelder’s response to what she saw generated an outpouring of interest from others in the community who want to help.

“It’s been a busy couple of months, and tomorrow we will hopefully get people to the table,” Bachelder said.

In addition to the community meeting, Bachelder said she is launching a Facebook page titled “Help ME Recover” that will list items or services needed by those in recovery, whether clothing for an interview, a ride or items needed by a sober house.

She has also launched a scholarship fund to help those who complete a detoxification program pay to enter a sober house program and is volunteering her time at the center.

For more information, contact Bachelder at [email protected].