Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jan 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Contact:  491 Main St., PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329
Website: http://www.bangornews.com/
Author: Diana Graettinger

COASTAL DRUG BATTLE HEATS UP

CALAIS  Although a state official used the M word this week when she 
floated the idea of methadone treatment Down East, leaders of a community 
group in Washington County said Tuesday they hope the result will be a 
broad, intensive substance abuse program for the region.

Concerned about reports that prescription drug abuse is rampant in the 
area, a group of residents began organizing late last year with the mandate 
to eliminate 'mind-altering substance abuse' problems in Washington County. 
Members called their group Neighbors Against Drug Abuse.

During a meeting with the group Monday night, Kimberly Johnson, director of 
the state Office of Substance Abuse, said federal and state money is 
available to start an outpatient treatment facility. And the state has 
found a Machias-based treatment provider to apply for the federal money.

The outpatient program the group hopes to form would include medical and 
mental health services and substance abuse counseling, as well as 
treatment, education and community outreach.

One of the organizers, nurse practitioner Anne Perry, said Tuesday she was 
shocked that the state effort might focus on methadone treatment.

'We are working very hard to include the full county in a comprehensive 
approach to this problem,' Perry said. 'A methadone treatment center, 
whatever you want to call it, is putting things in before any kind of a 
plan has been made. It's only one small aspect of all that we are looking 
at,' she said.

Another local organizer, high school substance abuse counselor Carrie 
McDonald, said the group was not interested in starting a methadone clinic 
in the area. Opponents of such a clinic fear that it would attract more 
drug addicts Down East.

She said the group was interested in a comprehensive treatment program  
and that methadone would be an option they might explore for long-term 
heroin addicts. 'But it would only be a small piece of that, and it would 
have to be researched and approved by the community. It wouldn't be a 
clinic,' she said.

The Neighbors group includes medical providers, substance abuse counselors, 
businesspeople, a minister, and others whose lives had been touched by 
Washington County's drug problems.

In recent years, Down East has seen a dramatic increase in the illegal use 
of prescription drugs. Law enforcement officials believe that the increase 
has caused an increase in crime, including break-ins and burglaries.

Late last year, U.S. Attorney Jay McCloskey talked up a movement Down East 
to attack the problem. But he said that while he could help identify the 
problem, it was up to the people of Washington County to find a solution. 
Those who met with McCloskey agreed, and they formed the Neighbors group.

Scott Withers, a medical provider who works with the substance abuse 
program at Indian Township, was elected president of the group. Certified 
nurse-midwife Nancy Green was elected vice president. McDonald and Perry 
are also officers.

Although the four are drawn to each other because of their collective 
medical experience, they view the solution as communitywide.

'We not only have to get these people off drugs, we have to treat the 
addiction,' Perry said. 'And then we've got to treat the underlying mental 
illness that the addiction is creating,' she said. 'We can't leave them 
with the fact that they've gone through withdrawal and now they are OK. We 
are looking at a program that goes beyond rehab,' she said.
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