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August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day

Posted on August 31, 2020 | News

By Doug Dunbar, EMDC Workforce Development Specialist

Hope and connections. They’re needed more than ever, but often seem distant and out of reach in this uncertain time. For individuals in recovery from substance use disorder, hope and connections can make the difference between stability and relapse; between health and overdose. For some, it’s a matter of life and death.

As a result of the coronavirus and the way it’s changed our lives and society, the opioid crisis is intensifying across Maine and throughout the nation. It’s a drug epidemic wrapped in a health pandemic. Deaths from overdose are on pace to set another tragic record. They declined for the first time in 2018, but rose again last year and are now hitting new highs.

COVID arrived at a time when Maine state government and other stakeholders in the opioid battle had made substantial strides in raising public awareness, developing partnership, galvanizing support for innovative strategies, and leveraging resources.

Creation of the Governor’s Office on Opioid Response elevated this seemingly intractable problem to its necessary place of prominence on the public policy agenda. The expansion of Medicaid opened the doors of substance use disorder treatment facilities, mental health clinics and other provider organizations to thousands of individuals who were previously locked out because of their finances. The state’s emphasis on training recovery coaches and distributing life-saving naloxone are crucially important actions to prevent needless deaths and give many Mainers a future.

Yet more is needed, so recent additional work has been done by the state and a number of partners. Last summer, the Maine Department of Labor approached EMDC to collaborate in the writing of a grant proposal—seeking millions of dollars in emergency relief funds from the United States Department of Labor—to fight and mitigate the opioid crisis.

In this case, the focus is on making sure doors to education, training and employment are opened to unemployed individuals in recovery—to bring about greater stability, ease financial pressures and give added meaning and purpose to life.

With funding secured from the federal government, and support obtained from partners across the state, Maine’s Connecting with Opportunities Initiative launched earlier this summer. The goal is to serve nearly 700 individuals and bolster the workforce needed to address the crisis.

And though this initiative targets people who’ve been impacted by opioid use disorder (directly or indirectly), it’s also open to unemployed workers who haven’t been impacted but wish to enter a field that serves to diminish the crisis, such as drug counseling, recovery coaching or mental health.

To realize maximum success and serve the greatest number of people, EMDC is seeking more partners and encouraging referrals of people who could benefit from this promising effort. To request more information, to schedule a presentation for your organization or to make a referral, please e-mail or call Doug (ddunbar@emdc.org or 299-5626). Hope and connections. They make a difference. Join us in this Connecting with Opportunities work and help hope to flourish throughout Maine. And please see below for information about overdose. 

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