Lewiston panel calls for dedicated community detox center to respond to opioid crisis
Creating a dedicated community walk-in detox center for Lewiston is at the top of the list of recommendations from a committee that formed last year to study the opioid crisis and its impacts on the city.
The closest dedicated detox center is in Portland. But Catherine Ryder, CEO of Tri-County Mental Health Services and member of Lewiston's ad-hoc committee on substance use and recovery, said that's too far away.
"If you've ever seen somebody who is moving into withdrawal and those agonizing symptoms start for them, if you do not move quickly you will lose them," she told the Lewiston City Council Tuesday. "So we need to have a resource here that we can count on in a very timely, responsive way. That is our number one."
Lewiston does have a detox center for alcohol use, but not a dedicated walk-in center for those dealing with withdrawal from opioids.
Lewiston city councilors expressed general support on Tuesday for the idea, recognizing that Maine set another grim record in overdose deaths last year. But creating a new center won't be easy, as the pandemic decimated the region's available substance use and recovery workforce, Ryder said.
"Folks went home to work and many didn't come back, and so staffing is an issue. It requires some medical presence. You need nurses within the program and other clinicians available," she said. [You need] funding to actually set the program up, and then a community that's willing to support the work of a detox center."
The city does have some funding from recent opioid lawsuit settlements that it could use to create a detox center.
The committee also recommends adding more recovery and transitional housing, as well as additional transportation options for those who need help getting to an appointment.