LEWISTON — With a dozen years in the addiction treatment field, Jeremy Hiltz has seen ups and downs in the fight to address the state’s opioid crisis.

He said the drugs have become more potent and people are dying. At the same time, there is growing communitywide support for recovery efforts.

“We’re still missing the mark in a lot of ways,” he said. “The potency of the substances in our community right now is very high, so we’re losing a lot of people. But that also has more programs stepping up.”

Jeremy Hiltz, founder and CEO of Recovery Connections of Maine, has received Lewiston’s annual “Spirit of America” award. He is shown Friday at his Middle Street office. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

One of the organizations at the center of the fight, Recovery Connections of Maine, is his own.

Hiltz, the founder and CEO, was presented with the city’s annual “Spirit of America” award during the Lewiston City Council meeting last Tuesday, receiving a large ovation from the audience.

Each year, the Spirit of America Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Augusta, asks Maine municipalities to select individuals, projects or organizations for recognition for commendable community service. They are recognized in April, which is National Volunteer Month.

Advertisement

Hiltz said the organization was “completely honored and humbled” by the award, and added that while he was there to accept the award, it highlights the work of everyone with whom he works.

“This is more about the recognition of our entire team, and that they are recognized for being as special as they are,” he said.

A city memorandum explained the council chose Recovery Connections of Maine for its multiphase recovery program for substance use disorder. The memo also described how Hiltz, along with his staff and community partners, “journeys alongside those in need, strives to build awareness about substance use disorder, and seeks to instill hope in others.”

The organization began on Lisbon Street, but Hiltz relocated it in 2019 to a larger office on Middle Street. It has since expanded its programs and now has 16 employees.

Hiltz has been in the addiction treatment field for about a dozen years, getting his start at local agencies that are no longer in operation.

He said with Recovery Connections, the original goal was to redefine what an agency can do for a person.

Advertisement

“We really take a holistic approach,” he said, “and really look at the whole person.”

That approach includes focusing on employment, obtaining a driver’s license, finding housing and more. The organization now operates three sober living houses — with a total of 36 beds — that often assist in transitions from incarceration.

Recovery Connections operates an intensive outpatient program, which Hiltz says is “trauma informed,” with “fantastic counselors” who focus on connections with patients.

He said counselors take the approach it does not matter what a person has done or if that person is still using drugs. Everyone is treated the same.

The organization is not alone in its efforts, and Hiltz said there are signs more people are recognizing the opioid crisis as worsening and demands more attention.

Hiltz named the Church of Safe Injection and the city’s participation in the state OPTIONS program as examples.

Advertisement

Hiltz said treatment options, such as Suboxone, the brand name of a prescription medication used in treating those addicted to illegal or prescription opioids, are more widely accepted now, which, along with the state’s MaineCare expansion, has made the job easier in some respects.

Last month, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline announced formation of a 16-member committee on substance use. The committee is co-chaired by Chantel St. Laurent, an addiction substance abuse counselor at Recovery Connections of Maine.

Hiltz said the committee is “a step in the right direction,” and shows “more people are coming together now than probably ever before.”

Sheline said this week “there is no doubt” Hiltz and Recovery Connections of Maine have made a difference within the community.

“Helping people suffering from substance use disorder is important to me and it’s critical for our city,” Sheline said. “Working together is the only way we can progress, and I’m proud that RCOM, along with other community partners, are serving on the Ad Hoc Committee on Substance Use & Recovery.”

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives his or her time to make their community a better place? Nominate that person for Kudos. Send his or her name and the place where the person does good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and he will do the rest.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: