Maine Behavioral Healthcare unveiled a new treatment center in South Portland Thursday for people with opioid and other substance-use disorders. It's the fifth so-called 'hub' for treatment under the MaineHealth system, and it’s the only one that operates in Cumberland County, which has the most drug overdose deaths in the state.
The treatment center is expected to serve upwards of 100 patients. It's location in South Portland, says Dr. Linda Durst, the Chief Medical Officer for Maine Behavioral Healthcare, fills a need in the region.
"In 2018, fully 25 percent of drug deaths occurred in Cumberland County," Durst says.
Andy Allen says he could not find treatment for opioid addiction in Portland when he first sought it several years ago, but he eventually found a treatment center in Biddeford.
"Making the trek to Biddeford four days a week and working two jobs all throughout the winter was challenging,” says ALllen. “I think about the people around this area that were hesitant because of travel issues, now they don't have to worry about that."
Allen, who spoke at the treatment center unveiling in South Portland, says he is living proof that treatment works. The center in South Portland provides medication-assisted treatment, therapy and peer support. Patients start with these more intensive services and, once stable, receive ongoing treatment from a primary care doctor. It's called a hub and spoke model.
"Without a hub, there can't be any spokes," says Gordon Smith, the state's director of opioid response.
Smith says that Maine needs more hubs. He says about 900 primary care providers in Maine have waivers to provide medication-assisted treatment, and, while that number has grown every year, he says that not all of these providers actually offer treatment. Having more hubs, Smith says, would provide a back-up for doctors and patients.
"It's really important to have a specialty practice where people can be referred if they're not doing well," says Smith.
Smith says the new treatment center in South Portland reflects the progress Maine is making in offering more medication assisted treatment. He says, though, that Maine still needs to provide more residential treatment options and better support for those in recovery.
Updated 4:54 p.m. Oct. 3, 2019