Tom Hines of Mexico speaks about problems in the community at the community forum on drug use, homelessness and other issues in the River Valley area at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico on Friday. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — Around 70 residents of the River Valley community gathered Friday evening to voice their concerns and to seek answers to the problems of homelessness, mental illness and drug abuse within their community.

More than a dozen residents came forward to speak at the podium in the gym at Mountain Valley Middle School to share how some of them have faced the loss of their own children to drug addiction. Others shared how they are afraid to go out for a walk in the evening in their neighborhoods because of drug users and homeless people on the streets near their homes in Rumford.

Tom Hines, a Mexico resident, spoke about seeing drug users and dealers in front of his home and how he lost his daughter who abused drugs, to a heart attack. His oldest son has recovered from drug abuse, he said, but staying clean “is a constant battle.”

“The horror of losing your children (to drugs) is beyond words,” Hines said. What he wants to see happen in his community is the drug dealers removed from the streets and the kingpin drug dealers incarcerated.

Hines has found support in other community members with a group on Facebook called River Valley Awareness. The group includes residents of the area who “found their voices were not being heard,” when they complained about trespassing, theft and drug dealers in their neighborhoods, and they have a place on the social media page to inform and inspire each other to help each other and even those people in addiction.

“Let’s all join together and remove this pestilence from our towns,” Hines said.


Amanda and Jason Provencher of Rumford voiced that they and their three children used to enjoy playing on the fields and the nearby trails at Hosmer Field in Rumford, but now they don’t feel safe doing that anymore because of homeless people and drug users in the neighborhood.

“I used to feel safe walking these streets when I was 14,” Amanda Provencher said, adding that “people are stealing from us, people are trespassing on our property … there are homeless (people) and we just don’t feel safe and that’s really scary.”

Samantha Cummings, an area resident, told the crowd that she is an addict in recovery. “From someone who has made it to the other side, people in active addiction aren’t necessarily bad people, they are just making bad decisions,” Cummings said.

Kayleigh Bordeau, who also said that she is a recovering addict, said, “We all need to come together and help each other, that’s what it’s going to take (to solve these problems).”

Bordeau said that she overdosed after years of drug abuse and she “was lucky enough to be revived; I was given a second chance.” She found help through Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-Step Program, which “really helped” her, she said. There are many AA meetings in the area and there is a Narcotics Anonymous phone number for those seeking help for drug addiction.

The community forum also welcomed three area service providers: Glenn Gordon of Oxford County Mental Health Services, Michelle Worthley of Rumford Group Homes and Berta Broomhall of Med-Care Ambulance.


Glenn Gordon of Oxford County Mental Health Services is one of three service providers and speakers at the community forum on drug use, homelessness and other issues in the River Valley area at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico on Friday. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Gordon, a community resource navigator, identified himself as “a person in long-term recovery” who struggled with a substance abuse problem, especially as a teenager and young adult.

“The thing that we have in common now is all of us want our community to be better, safer; there is not one person in this room who doesn’t feel that way,” Gordon said.

Nine public officials were also given up to three minutes each to speak: Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon, Rumford Police Chief Tony Milligan, Dixfield Town Manager Alicia Conn, Mexico Town Manager Raquel Welch-Day, Oxford County Commissioner Dave Duguay, State Rep. Tammy Schmersal-Burgess, State Rep. Rachel Henderson, State Sen. Lisa Kiem and District Attorney Neil McLean Jr.

Chief Hodsdon said that his department is “listening to people, but our hands are tied.” One issue they have is a state government homeless policy that the police department has to follow.

Chief Milligan told the forum that policing “has become more dangerous, more demanding and more stressful.”

“The three major problems effecting the quality of life and public safety in the River Valley area I would say are, and probably nationally, are drugs, mental illness and homelessness,” Milligan said.


Around 70 residents of the River Valley community gathered at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico on Friday for a forum with local, county and state officials to discuss residents’ concerns about drug use, homelessness and other issues in the area. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Commissioner Duguay said Oxford County has joined the opioid class action suits that includes a manufacturer settlement for the county of $240,000.

Initial payments from the suit are currently at $240,000 and another $50,000 a year for the next 17 years is expected, Duguay said.

Sen. Keim of Dixfield said the drug crisis issue requires a three-pronged approach of prevention with education, law enforcement and rehabilitation.

She encouraged the audience to form groups in their community, to get informed on bills before the legislature and to speak up at public hearings about the problems they are facing in their communities.

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