This series of columns, with a theme of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, is dedicated to making our community a healthier place for us all to live. Ultimately, the health of our community can be assured only by our joining together as neighbors to support each other. The “neighbors” we most need now are more physicians to join in the effort to address the drug addiction epidemic.

In the past week, 23 more people have called me seeking treatment. Calls included:

• A woman patient called from the maternity ward of Pen Bay Hospital saying she just had a baby and had an opiate addiction problem. She was about to be discharged home with her baby but the hospital was unable to arrange addiction treatment for her after discharge. She was hoping I could take her on as a patient.

• Another woman called to say, “I just left the PARC unit where I was detoxed. They gave me a bridge prescription of Suboxone to get me through until I can find a doctor to continue my care. I can go to ARC (in Damariscotta), but if I go there I’m going to lose my job which is not a very good option for me. If you could possibly help me at all I’d really appreciate it.”

As neighbors, we all need to do what we can to help those trapped in their addiction. Since my practice is full, I have been referring these people to counselors, NA, AA and any other treatment they can seek until physicians are available to help them as part of the “village” of support. I will continue to seek out more options in our community to help these decent people in distress. For those who would like to join the Knox County network to battle addiction, please contact knox.recovery.network@gmail.com (or call or text 370-9881).

Of the few patients able to find a physician to treat their addiction, many find ongoing challenges due to the “octopus” of problems including poverty, poor employment, mental illnesses, emotional and physical traumas, lack of health insurance, lack of access to medical care, unreliable transportation, trouble with the law and struggling with dysfunctional personal and family relationships. As a community we need to strive to confront the octopus for those with and without addiction. For now, anyone interested in establishing a network of support, to join Neighbors Helping Neighbors, please contact join.the.knox.cause@gmail.com (or call or text 370-9881).

Strongly Positive Actions This Week —

• Following the Heroin/Opiate Community Forum on February 4 and The Free Press coverage, there is growing strong interest in partnering by all involved. Much information is being shared. Collaborations and brainstorming for further action are being planned including how to encourage Pen Bay leadership to participate in realistic solutions. All interested individuals or organizations are encouraged to join the cause via the contact information at the bottom of this column. 

 


• Dr. Brian Pierce, through his role as president of the Maine Medical Association, is putting out a call to all physicians “to do their part” including becoming certified to prescribe Suboxone.

• Dr. Harold Amsel, a psychiatrist who works on the PARC unit, continues to seek Pen Bay physicians willing “to do their part.”

Encouraging Actions — 

The good news is that a private organization called “Recover Together” is ready to begin providing treatment in Rockland to people with opiate addiction within 6 weeks — if they can find three doctors willing to work with them — each doctor could devote as few as six hours per month to enable up to 100 patients to receive treatment. The staff of Recover Together would manage every other aspect of treatment, freeing up the doctors to continue their present responsibilities. Recover Together fixes the way in which the current approach is broken for doctors. Most physicians fear they would be overwhelmed trying to manage patients with opiate addiction so they avoid it. In the end, patients are stuck without help. Recover Together bridges the gap. Their specialized addiction teams support physicians who are able to depend upon full-time counselors and coordinators, to provide all day-to-day patient management, freeing the physicians from time-consuming and challenging issues. Physicians at Recover Together make a flexible part-time commitment based on their schedule, and receive excellent compensation for their time. Recover Together is a good fit for physicians new to addiction treatment or those whose established practices have become too time consuming. Local efforts will continue to find physicians who may work with Recover Together.

Clear Opportunities for Improvement —

To physicians in our community, and to their leaders, please consider the Recover Together option. With a minimum of physician time expense, and a minimum of daily practice “hassle,” many desperate people can get meaningful help. Pen Bay Healthcare is encouraged to develop and implement plans to enable some of its primary care doctors to provide addiction treatment to their patients. Partnering with Recover Together may be a simple approach to make this feasible.

For those in need of addiction treatment in Knox County, please contact get.treatment.help@gmail.com (or call or text 370-9881).