Center 'filling gap' for those seeking recovery

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BRIDGTON — Four months after opening its doors, the Lakes Region Recovery Center has 95 members and continues to be fiercely committed to its peer-to-peer model and its mission “to listen and just support.”

The LRRC is part of a “hub and spokes” model that resulted from a 2016 state law mandating peer-led recovery centers across the state. In early 2017, Catherine Clough-Bell, the CEO of the LRRC and of Crooked River Counseling in Bridgton, received a grant from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to create the center. 

According to Director Tracey Martin, there was much to be done when construction began in the spring, as the center is located at 25 Hospital Drive in part of a wing at the back of the old hospital building. 

Martin said the location was “a very, very old, run-down space,” but after months of work and a few coats of paint, they held an open house Sept. 6 and were ready for business. 

The center is separate from Crooked River Counseling and from Bridgton Hospital, although the three collaborate “as far as being able to service the community the best possible way we can,” she said.

What the LRRC offers is different from what the other two institutions do, according to communications specialist Micki Bless.

“Some people come into the hospital and they’re in distress or in crisis, and they might get the care there, but then they don’t really know where to go and what to do afterwards. So we’re kind of here to fill that gap,” she said.

Crooked River Counseling, meanwhile, “offers the clinical side of things to be able to get them the right treatment that they need” before introducing them to the LRRC, which Bless calls a “recovery community.” 

The LRRC hosts a variety of groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other recovery meetings. The center also runs community-centered activities, such as yoga classes, craft days, meditation, writing groups and parenting groups. 

“We are not clinical. We’re 100 percent peer-to-peer. We try to involve as much of the community aspect as the recovery aspect. We don’t want to make people feel different. We want them to walk in here and feel no judgment,” said Bless, who is in recovery herself.

Martin emphasized the center’s focus on welcoming everyone with open arms.

“People are at all stages of their recovery. And they may falter. They may fall. That’s okay. We don’t care. We’re glad that they came through the door because it means that they’re still here. They’re still alive. We’re just happy to see them,” she said.

Most of the center’s members struggle with opioids and alcohol, Martin said. 

According to its website, the center welcomes those “who self identify as being in recovery from a substance use disorder or being a supporter of a person with a substance use disorder (in recovery or not) or being a person who desires to seek recovery without judgment or discrimination.”

Membership at the center is free, but members must fill out an application. Although the center has 95 members, Martin said its biggest challenge is still getting the word out about its existence and location. 

“People are really surprised. They say, ‘There’s a recovery center in Bridgton?'” she said.

In addition to Martin and Bless, the center is staffed by a part-time programs coordinator and about 15 volunteers, who work late hours and weekends. 

Martin praised the volunteers and the surrounding community: “The community is absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe it. Everybody wants to help in some way.”

The network of support stretches across the Lakes Region and through the LRRC, Bless said.

“There’s continuing support. You don’t have to be thrown back out to the wolves. If you need a place to come, then come and see us.”

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

The Lakes Region Recovery Center is located at 25 Hospital Drive behind the old hospital building. 

The group room at the Lakes Region Recovery Center, where many meetings are held. 

Communications specialist Micki Bless, left, and Director Tracey Martin at the Lakes Region Recovery Center.