Sebasticook Valley Opioid Crisis Response

Federal grant brings community together for local efforts to make a difference in the opioid crisis in the Sebasticook Valley region and Maine 

A $1 million federal grant is helping communities in the Pittsfield area and beyond make an impact on the opioid crisis. Northern Light Health, in collaboration with Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital, received the funding through the  Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. The program is a three-year initiative supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration to address barriers to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for substance and opioid use disorder. 

Learn more about what we are doing to respond to the Maine Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has hit rural communities hard. According to the region’s latest Community Health Needs Assessment, opioid use and the lack of accessible and affordable treatment for substance use disorder is a significant concern to community members. Overdose deaths in Somerset County have nearly doubled over the past ten years with eight deaths occurring  in the first half of 2020. This is part of a statewide pattern of increased drug deaths. In the first half of 2020 there were 258 overdose deaths in Maine, and most were caused by opioids. 

“People in rural communities suffering from the opioid epidemic are facing more challenges accessing services, especially during the pandemic,” said Terri Vieira, MHA, FACHE, president of Sebasticook Valley Hospital. “This grant will allow us to strengthen partnerships, develop sustainable plans, and expand services so that we can help more people.”

The Pittsfield hospital joins a group of community partners that will work together on the multi-year plan. The group is called the Sebasticook Valley Opioid Response Network and its first meeting was held virtually on October 26, 2020. Members reviewed goals and objectives, which include improving the regional coordination and communication response for opioid use disorder, increasing community awareness, improving local access to treatment services, as well as improving clinical support for treatment and recovery.  

The group has members from healthcare, behavioral health, law enforcement, and education:

“The Pittsfield Police Department is pleased to be part of this important group that is working to make an impact in all the areas of our community” said police chief, Harold “Pete” Bickmore. “Working together as a team, we have the opportunity to collaborate on our efforts to combat the opioid crisis.”

For more information about the Sebasticook Valley Opioid Response Network and its community action plan, please contact Jessica Shaffer, director of Community Health Partnerships with Northern Light Health at jshaffer@northernlight.org or 207-973-8039, or visit northernlighthealth.org/Sebasticook.

The $1 million grant to Northern Light Health is part of $89 million awarded to 89 rural organizations across 38 states by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health and Resources and Services Administration and the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.

People in rural communities suffering from the opioid epidemic are facing more challenges accessing services, especially during the pandemic. This grant will allow us to strengthen partnerships, develop sustainable plans, and expand services so that we can help more people.

- Terri Vieira