Glenn Gordon, Outreach Clinician – Oxford County OPTIONS Program, said at community forum on May 1 that he hopes this just the beginning of the process of becoming a recovery ready community. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times


MEXICO — The importance of being a recovery ready community to combat substance abuse was emphasized at a community forum attended by up to 80 people on May 1.
The event, held in The Apostolic Church, included speakers to discuss the challenges, a discussion on prevention and education, assisting law enforcement, intervention, treatment and recovery and getting our community ready for recovery.
Following the panel presentations, those attending broke into three groups and talked about the next steps, discussing priorities in working towards becoming a recovery ready community.
Representative Raegan LaRochelle of Augusta and Augusta City Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen talked about what they did to become a recovery ready community.
LaRochelle said a key is to choose a lead organization “because it’s a lot of work.”
She said that bringing players to the table to set goals and to determine what ready recovery looks like, as well as inventoring things like resources and services they can offer, and identify where the gaps are.
Gary-Allen noted, “We are the solution to our problems.”
Kari Taylor, project coordinator for Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative (WMARI), noted everyone has something to bring to the table. “Keep showing up and something big will happen.”
Ways identified where a recovery ready community can combat substance abuse is by assisting people with housing, employment, transportation, education, prevention, harm reduction (keeping people alive), public safety, and recovery supports.
Rumford Police Chief Tony Milligan stressed, “This is not going to be fixed overnight.”
He suggested parents get more involved with their kids on this issue, and “not just leave it to the schools.”
Milligan said parents should be talking to their kids about the dangers of drugs and combat the misinformation that’s out there in the community. “Be good role models. Kids are watching.”
Also, encourage purpose by getting kids involved in something, such as volunteerism and community involvement. “Don’t let kids become idle,” he said.
And set boundaries and discipline where necessary.
Glenn Gordon, Outreach Clinician – Oxford County OPTIONS Program, said there were 36 fatal overdoses throughout Oxford County in 2022. The River Valley area was affected particularly hard in the summer and fall of last year. Families in the community were devastated by the loss of loved ones.
After community members asked what could be done, a group of people in recovery, local agencies, high school students, educators, business owners, law enforcement and local officials came together to have an open discussion about the impact of substance use and the challenges for those suffering and their families.
From this group, River Valley Recovers Strong formed to build on the momentum and reach out to the community by a series of events and conversations.
The initial event took place on March 11 at the Larry Labonte Recovery Center in Rumford, when over 100 people attended to connect people with people who are recovering, to share stories of recovery, reduce stigma and provide hope.
On April 17, people in early recovery, family members and people still actively using met in a small group setting to discuss their challenges and to discuss what has worked for them. These were important conversations and provided invaluable insight into the first hand experience of what it is like to suffer and get help with problems around substance use.
The information was gathered to be part of the May 1 forum discussion.


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