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Lee Umphrey and Doug Dunbar: Instilling hope, creating new opportunities through connections

Posted on October 26, 2020 | Success Stories

COVID-19 has upended our lives. We’ve been confronted by unpleasant realities and faced with unexpected challenges. In our communities, long-standing social problems have grown worse. Suicides are on the rise. Overdose deaths are mounting. In the economy, businesses have vanished and thousands of workers have seen their jobs disappear.

Many struggle to visualize a promising future. Hope and connections are needed more than ever, but they can seem 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.

Due to social isolation, the loss of in-person recovery resources and other factors related to COVID-19, the opioid crisis and substance use disorders in general have intensified throughout Maine and across the country. 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.

We’re in the midst of a drug epidemic made worse by the health pandemic. They’re both enormous challenges and each needs to be addressed in multiple ways.

For its part, Eastern Maine Development Corporation is seeking to spark hope and a renewed sense of possibility for workers displaced by COVID-19 and individuals affected by substance use disorder. We’re doing this by connecting these individuals with people who care and with the financial resources, expertise and new opportunities needed to make a fresh start in the workforce and move forward in life.

Established more than 50 years ago, EMDC is a nonprofit economic development organization delivering services and support to businesses, communities and workers across much of the state. We’re driven to produce positive outcomes by building strong relationships and developing strategic partnerships. On Sept. 1, EMDC expanded its coverage area and became the provider of workforce services in Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties.

COVID-19 has upended our lives. We’ve been confronted by unpleasant realities and faced with unexpected challenges. In our communities, long-standing social problems have grown worse. Suicides are on the rise. Overdose deaths are mounting. In the economy, businesses have vanished and thousands of workers have seen their jobs disappear.

Many struggle to visualize a promising future. Hope and connections are needed more than ever, but they can seem 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.

Due to social isolation, the loss of in-person recovery resources and other factors related to COVID-19, the opioid crisis and substance use disorders in general have intensified throughout Maine and across the country. 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.

We’re in the midst of a drug epidemic made worse by the health pandemic. They’re both enormous challenges and each needs to be addressed in multiple ways.

For its part, Eastern Maine Development Corporation is seeking to spark hope and a renewed sense of possibility for workers displaced by COVID-19 and individuals affected by substance use disorder. We’re doing this by connecting these individuals with people who care and with the financial resources, expertise and new opportunities needed to make a fresh start in the workforce and move forward in life.

Established more than 50 years ago, EMDC is a nonprofit economic development organization delivering services and support to businesses, communities and workers across much of the state. We’re driven to produce positive outcomes by building strong relationships and developing strategic partnerships. On Sept. 1, EMDC expanded its coverage area and became the provider of workforce services in Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties. Advertisement

In collaboration with the Central Western Maine Workforce Development Board and having brought Community Concepts on as a key partner, EMDC is implementing an ambitious strategy to tackle some of the major obstacles and barriers created by the pandemic and opioid crisis.

On the opioid front, EMDC partnered with Maine’s Department of Labor last year to seek emergency relief from the federal government to create employment opportunities for individuals in recovery. Earlier this year, Maine was awarded a $6.2 million grant. It will change the trajectory of many lives.

With this funding, Maine’s Connecting with Opportunities Initiative came to life. It’s opening doors to education, training and good jobs — bringing greater stability and added purpose to life. The goal is to serve nearly 700 individuals and bolster the workforce needed to mitigate the substance use disorder crisis.

Significant financial resources are available to those who participate. Perhaps most important, everyone who enrolls is paired with a “Peer Connector” — someone in recovery trained to provide one-on-one assistance. In addition to the support of a peer, each participant benefits from a workforce development specialist with expertise in career planning.

And though Maine’s Connecting with Opportunities Initiative targets people who’ve been impacted by opioid use disorder (personally or indirectly), it’s open to unemployed workers who haven’t been impacted but wish to enter a treatment or recovery field.

For workers in Lewiston and Auburn who’ve been displaced due to COVID-19, EMDC is implementing a second initiative to make sure they’re connected with community services and given the opportunity to further their education, gain new skills and become better positioned to return to the workforce.

To serve the greatest number of people, EMDC is seeking partnerships with community organizations, businesses and non-profit agencies. And we’re encouraging the referral of people who could benefit from these initiatives.

Hope and connections. They make an enormous difference and are needed more than ever. EMDC looks forward to building lasting relationships in central and western Maine to spark hope, create strong connections and bring about new opportunities.

Lee Umphrey is president and CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corporation. Doug Dunbar is EMDC’s recovery and re-entry workforce specialist.

To request information, schedule a presentation or make a referral, e-mail Doug Dunbar at ddunbar@emdc.org or call (207) 299-5626.

Sun Journal

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