LEWISTON — The city is in urgent need of a local comprehensive detoxification center with walk-in care for opioid withdrawal, representatives from the Mayoral Ad Hoc Committee on Substance Use and Recovery told the City Council on Tuesday.

Mayor Carl Sheline formed the committee last March to assess the resources and opportunities available and identify the needs of the community to address substance use in Lewiston. He also charged the committee with developing recommendations for how to support people in recovery.

Following nearly a year of work, the committee determined that developing a local detox center is the “number one priority” for Lewiston, Sheline, Councilor Stephanie Gelinas and Tri-County Mental Health Services CEO Catherine Ryder told councilors at a workshop before Tuesday’s council meeting.

A comprehensive detox center was at the top of a long list of needs if Lewiston is “truly going to be a recovery-ready community,” Ryder said.

“Right now, if we have somebody who needs detox, we have to take them out of community and a significant ways out of community,” she said.


People with substance use disorders or who are acutely intoxicated can receive short-term, medically supervised care so they can safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol. When a person who regularly uses substances suddenly stops using them, they can experience symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue to convulsions and hallucinations and even death.

The closest detox center is at Milestone Recovery in Portland or other centers in Augusta and Bangor. There are also hospital-based detox programs.

“If we had that resource here in the community, we believe we could get people treatment when they need it,” Ryder said.

“Because if you’ve ever seen somebody who is moving into withdrawal and those agonizing symptoms start for them if you do not move quickly, you will lose them. And so we need a resource here we can count on in a very timely, responsive way. That is our number one,” she said.

Development of a community-based detox center and more detox options at Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center are one of the committee’s four recommendations for the City Council, Gelinas said.

Lewiston does already have one community-based detox center, but it is only for alcohol. And with more than 700 fatal drug overdoses recorded in Maine last year — of which 500 alone were due to the synthetic opioid fentanyl — there is clearly a need for a center that can treat opioid withdrawal, the committee representatives said.

Additionally, the committee is recommending that the city fund a “mobile induction unit,” and address housing needs for individuals in recovery. It also recommended efforts put into education on “what substance use disorder is and what substance use disorder is not.”

“We have to take this wildly misunderstood disease and put effort as a community into breaking down the myths and stigma that exists,” Gelinas said.

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