The Healthy Community Coalition of the Greater Franklin County Area (HCC) has launched a survey to learn more information about the community’s understanding and perception of substance use disorder and harm reduction services. Pictured from left, OPTIONS liaison Katlynn Johnson, Deborah Burchfield of Franklin Community Health Network, HCC Program Coordinator Sabrina Keene and Sergeant Ryan Close of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office pose in front of HCC’s Mobile Health Unit. The van will offer mobile harm reduction services for substance use to individuals across the region. Submitted photo

REGION — The Healthy Community Coalition of the Greater Franklin County Area (HCC) has launched an anonymous survey on substance use disorder and harm reduction services as the organization continues to expand its services.

HCC is an affiliate of Franklin Community Health Network working to improve the health and well-being of the local community on various fronts.

In recent years, HCC has directed its focus toward addressing the opioid epidemic and substance-use disorder crisis with harm reduction services.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, defines harm reduction as “engaging directly with people who use drugs to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of those served, and offer low-threshold options for accessing substance use disorder treatment and other health care services.”

The intent of HCC’s survey is to help the organization “gauge how well the people of Franklin County understand harm reduction services, and what their opinions, perceptions and concerns are,” Ashley McCarthy, Sabrina Keene and Tracy Harty of HCC wrote together over email.

The survey will help guide how HCC begins to address education on substance use disorder and the biases or stigmas people may have about it.


“We want to listen to people’s thoughts, ideas and concerns with these services … and ultimately design our future strategies to ensure that everyone feels safe in their community and understand why these services are actually helping and not making the situation worse,” the HCC representatives wrote. “This [survey] is something we have never done before (with harm reduction) and [we are] hoping to get a widespread look at how harm reduction is viewed by our community.”

The survey offers a variety of questions around the causes and treatments for substance use disorder, the impact of harm reduction services, and how respondents would feel about HCC offering certain services in this community.

In particular, HCC is working on becoming a State Certified Syringe Service Program (SSP). The organization would take its recently acquired Mobile Health Unit to different parts of the region and offer “Safe Syringe Services.” The survey states that the program would offer access to “clean needles,” “a place to safely throw away used needles,” and “services for people who use substances” in order to “reduce spread of certain diseases” such as HIV and Hepatitis-C.

With these services in mind, HCC will also use the survey results as guidance on where to offer the SSP with a town’s “support” and “confidence” in the program.

Harty, McCarthy and Keene feel these services are especially important as substance use continues to increase in Franklin County “as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to the existing crisis situation so many people face due to poverty, isolation and transportation barriers.”

According to data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and University of Maine, 636 people died in 2021 from a drug overdose death in Maine, which was 23% more than the record set in 2020.


Additionally, HCC has learned from local law enforcement that “Fentanyl, a lethal substance in very small amounts, is being laced into just about any street drug and is quite common even in Franklin County, contributing to the number of fatal overdoses.”

The three women referenced a 14-year-old, newly eighth-grade graduate from Franklin County who recently passed away due to an overdose.

HCC views fighting the substance use disorder crisis as a community effort, though people “can easily ignore” the crisis if they aren’t “directly impacted” by it.

“If our community wrapped our arms around someone, whether that be reducing stigma, not sharing misinformation, calling a friend who seems like they are struggling, we would see less people struggling in our community,” they wrote. “The sadness, shame, loss and pain associated with this devastating disease touches lives throughout our communities.”

HCC acknowledges the misconception that harm reduction services are only providing people with “supplies” such as the clean syringes, Naloxone (an emergency medication for narcotic overdoses) and fentanyl test strips.

But aboard the Mobile Health Unit, HCC also works to connect individuals with providers, peer recovery coaches and connections to community resources for ongoing treatment of substance use disorder, including wound care, general health care, counseling and medication-assisted treatment with medications that help with narcotics dependency.

“The ultimate goal for our team is to keep people alive, safe, and provide a location where people can come to feel safe and support[ed], regardless of their current use,” Harty, McCarthy and Keene wrote. “We act as a safe place for community members who are actively using to come for the resources and support they need to enter recovery, however that looks for them.”

The survey will be open for a couple of weeks. It can be accessed online at or via paper copies by contacting HCC at 207-779-292. Respondents are also encouraged to reach out to HCC at that phone number with any questions.

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