LIVERMORE FALLS — The mother-daughter duo who founded Lifeline for ME, a mental health and substance use disorder services provider, has plans in the works to open Franklin County’s first recovery center.

As it stands, Franklin County is just one of three counties in the state without a recovery center.

Noreen Sprague and Amanda Ricci (mother and daughter, respectively) started Lifeline for ME after both working in behavioral health services. Sprague said the duo saw the importance of the crossover of mental health and substance-use disorder services and wanted to “help the community.”

“We particularly chose the Livermore Falls area because there is a big need here and in the surrounding areas as well [for services],” Sprague said. “Our hope is not to just serve this area, but to serve the entire state.”

They saw this need in how there is “a huge waitlist for individual mental health therapy” amid a shortage of mental health providers and psychiatric-services providers in the Franklin County region.

“It seems like either [psychiatric services] providers are aging out and there aren’t a lot more being attracted to our area coming in,” Ricci said.


She added that some of the providers left are shifting to private practice, which makes it difficult for individuals with limited funds to find services.

Additionally, Sprague and Ricci stressed that substance use and mental health struggles are on the rise, particularly during the stressors and isolation of the pandemic.

All create the perfect storm that fostered the need for Lifeline for ME.

Sprague and Ricci found the “pathway” to Lifeline after experiencing the impacts of substance-use disorder within their family.

Lifeline provides services such as an intensive outpatient program for individuals with substance-use disorder in early recovery that goes beyond weekly counseling.

Additionally, they provide counseling for mental health issues where they “teach [individuals] skills and help the individual integrate into the community” and “help people learn better ways to manage their emotions to cope if they’re going into a crisis situation or in distress,” Ricci said.


Ricci and Sprague are now shifting Lifeline to nonprofit status in order to bring a recovery center and recovery housing to the greater Franklin County area.

According to Ricci, there is recovery housing in Augusta and the Lewiston-Auburn area, but nothing in Franklin County. Nor is there a homeless shelter after the Western Maine Homeless Outreach shelter closed in 2020.

This has made finding services, centers and housing difficult for individuals due to the rural nature of Franklin County — with a lack of public transportation, struggling economy and shortage of childcare services.

Sprague and Ricci got the ball rolling for the recovery center and housing back in September when they applied for nonprofit status.

Ricci said the center is “meant to be a place for individuals to go without judgment who are in recovery to, for example, attend meetings or get peer support … to connect with others.”

This connection would include a safe space for meetings such as a trauma and recovery empowerment group for women.


“There’s a huge stigma [around recovery]. So a lot of people aren’t going to walk into an unfamiliar place and ask for services or access services,” Ricci said.

This fear to ask for services is, in part, due to “the towns themselves [who] are not open to that because there is still so much stigma around substance use disorders,” Sprague said. “People don’t understand what’s going on. And they’re like, ‘oh, they’re just making a choice’ or ‘they’re gonna bring trouble to our town.’

“But, they already live here,” Sprague said.

Ricci and Sprague consider the community aspect of the center an integral part of recovery.

“[Individuals in recovery] want to be around other people who know what they have experienced and are in recovery, people that show them hope,” Ricci said. “So [the center would be a] comfortable place to go and access a needed service.”

Ricci added that “there are some people who have said that they would not have been able to enter recovery without the meetings and the support and the structure.”


Sprague and Ricci also envision recovery housing with a supportive living apartment or a house that is specifically meant for individuals who are experiencing substance use disorder, “people who are coming out of the criminal justice system, who need a place to live,” etc.

Sprague said the housing piece of the puzzle was inspired by “the understanding that it’s very difficult to recover if you don’t have your basic needs met – if you don’t have a roof over your head, you don’t have the supports that you need.”

The center and housing would be particularly impactful for formerly incarcerated individuals who are reentering society.

“If you have to worry about if you’re going to be cold sleeping on the streets, or if you’re going to have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, you just can’t focus on your recovery,” Ricci said.

The housing would allow these individuals to “focus on their recovery” by having “their basic needs met.” And the center would “offer support, the socialization.”

Ricci and Sprague are hopeful the center and housing would “reduce overdoses [and] reduce crisis situations.” It would also encourage individuals in recovery to attend primary care appointments, receive preventative care.


Ricci said this would, in turn, reduce the use of emergency services from EMS, the fire department and hospital emergency rooms.

Ultimately, Ricci and Sprague believe the services they will provide can decrease community spending on the emergency services.

“And it helps to to improve the overall general health of our community,” Ricci said. “Using substances doesn’t just affect the person that is using. It affects our entire community.”

Lifeline has partnered with different groups, organizations such as Race for Recovery and the Maine Prisoner Reentry Network “to establish a committee to figure out how to bring the services to our area,” Ricci said.

As it stands, Lifeline is in the “very beginning stages” of starting the center and housing. Now, Ricci and Sprague are focusing on the committee, gathering information on the cost to run the facilities, and acquiring funding.

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