Northern Light Health efforts to address opioid epidemic during Covid-19 featured during Governor Mills Second Annual Opioid Response Summit

Date: 08/06/2020

On Thursday, July 23, hundreds of Maine substance use disorder treatment providers and public health specialists, including representatives of Northern Light Health, attended a live stream of the Second Annual Governor’s Opioid Response Summit.

The full-day program, with the theme, “Compassion, Community, Connection,” featured presentations, poster sessions, and prerecorded panel discussions with persons in recovery sharing their experiences.

The state is committed to fighting the opioid epidemic, and Northern Light Health is actively involved in providing leadership, clinical expertise, educational programming, and direct treatment services.

Addressing the opioid epidemic during a global pandemic can be quite daunting. Still, Maine’s Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nirav Shah, MD, JD, provided perspective in his opening statements when he said, “Every number has a name.” He went on to set the stage of the challenge faced by the state, as a total of 259 drug overdose deaths are projected in the first six months of the current year, but stated that, “We have the opportunity today, to work to flatten a different curve.”

As a vital part of the state’s working group, Northern Light Health was a featured presenter, with Northern Light Mercy Hospital’s Vice President of Mission, Melissa Skahan, sharing information regarding McAuley Residences in Portland and Bangor. McAuley residence in Portland has been operating for more than 30 years. The Bangor residence just opened in March. 

The residence is a comprehensive two-generational model for families affected by Substance Use Disorder that has proven to be highly successful over the past ten years.  The residence works, in conjunction with outside providers, to ensure that women and their children have no barrier or disruption to receiving evidence-based treatment, clinically oriented services, and basic needs (including safe housing). Panelists representing other key community partners joined Melissa. The presentation was met with several positive comments and was well-received. To learn more about McAuley Residences in Bangor and Portland, go to

Northern Light Health’s support of, and participation in, the governor’s opioid summit is just one example of the system’s commitment to addressing Maine’s substance use disorder needs.

Northern Light Acadia Hospital’s Director of Integrated Behavioral Health Jesse Higgins, PMHNP, shares her perspective on the hospital’s work with community and Northern Light Health partners.

“Acadia is working with Northern Light EMMC to develop a hub and spoke model connecting the experts at Acadia’s outpatient opioid use disorder treatment program with primary care providers to ensure continuity of care,” Higgins states. “Our goal is to establish a no-wrong-door, destigmatized process for patients seeking treatment.”

Acadia’s other community involvement efforts include the creation and offering of a document detailing virtual resources and support groups for substance use disorder patients during the pandemic. This document also contains steps health care organizations are taking to safely manage medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with minimal on-site contact (Acadia itself houses a Narcotics Treatment Program, which has continued to offer MAT services throughout the pandemic).

Just as important as direct services, Acadia leverages its experts to problem solve with external partners to break down stigma, engage community members and families in the recovery process, and improve patient access to resources and treatment by expanding telehealth programs for people throughout the state.

For additional information regarding the full array of treatment options provided by Northern Light Health and its members, please go to