Recovering from substance use disorder is a long and difficult process, but one with a high probability of success when people have the necessary support over a period of time. People who have recovery support for five years, such as those found in recovery community organizations, have an 85% likelihood of reaching 15 years free of addiction to substances. Recovery may start with a period of residential or medical treatment, but national research has found that only 13% of people are able to access treatment. Most have to find recovery on their own.

Liz Holder, right, a peer support specialist at the Portland Recovery Community Center, puts her hand to the cheek of Susan Kierstead while they were talking after their Thanksgiving meals at the center in 2019. “I’m so happy I came today,” Kierstead said. “It’s brightened my day.” At any of Maine’s 19 recovery community centers, people in recovery can walk in and, at no charge, find people who have been in their shoes and will help them connect with others to rebuild a life of happiness and purpose. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, File

How have 23 million Americans found and sustained long-term recovery without treatment? How do the fortunate ones who received treatment sustain their recovery after they complete a 30-day stay in “rehab”?

If they live in one of Maine’s 19 communities that has a recovery community center, they (and their families) are able to walk in and, at no charge, find a group of people who have been in their shoes and are prepared to help. They can find a variety of support groups, from 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, to newer types of mutual support groups like SMART Recovery. Most people have heard about AA meetings, often in church basements for people recovering from addiction. Recovery community centers build on a long history and recovery movement in the United States to expand recovery supports that are proven to help people find and maintain long-term freedom from drugs and alcohol. Recovery community centers offer education, mutual aid, wellness activities such as yoga and many opportunities for fun and connecting with others to rebuild a life of happiness and purpose.

Thousands of people are now participating in recovery community centers throughout the state. But we need more centers, and the ones we have need additional funding. According to a 2022 Maine Policy Review article, a recent study estimated the impact of the opioid epidemic in Maine to be $6.8 billion in 2017, which amounts to $5,099 per Mainer, the sixth highest per capita cost in the nation. One does not need to look far to realize the economic and societal toll Maine’s addiction crisis has directly or indirectly had on everyone.

L.D. 1714, introduced this session with bipartisan support, seeks to establish the Recovery Community Centers Fund within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services using 12% of adult use cannabis tax revenue. There are currently 19 recovery community centers operating in Maine, with a primary focus on recovery from substance use disorder by offering non-clinical, peer recovery support services. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recognizes recovery support programs as one of the integral components of comprehensive drug addiction treatment.

Some of the recovery community centers in Maine are small and all operate on limited budgets, but they have unlimited dreams for what our state can be if everyone who needs and wants recovery can find it in their own community. Not just for 30 days, but for years to come. If passed, L.D. 1714 could provide approximately $3 million for the Recovery Community Centers Fund in 2024 and up to $8 million by 2027.

If you ask a parent who has lost a child because of an addiction, they will tell you there is not a dollar amount that could adequately capture their loss. When Maine invests in recovery, every individual and every family becomes less likely to experience immeasurable loss.

With the costs so high, all Mainers benefit when tax dollars are reinvested into community supports that foster and grow recovery. We urge our legislators to do this by voting “yes” on L.D. 1714.

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