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Commissioners hear proposal to create workforce substance abuse recovery program

HOULTON, Maine — Aroostook County commissioners Tuesday heard a presentation about a workforce development and substance abuse recovery project that officials are hoping to start in Aroostook County.

Joanna Russell, executive director of the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board serving Penobscot, Piscataquis and Hancock counties, told commissioners Tuesday about the Hancock County Recovery and Workforce Development Project that builds recovery support and resources for individuals fighting substance abuse.

She said during the commissioners’ meeting at the Houlton District Courthouse that she has been having conversations with officials at the Aroostook Mental Health Center to ultimately develop a similar program in The County and would likely return to the commissioners at some point to request funding for the initiative.

Currently, the Hancock County program is taking place in partnership with the Northeastern Workforce Development Board, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, Open Door Recovery Center and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

Russell said the program has been ongoing for more than two years and that the Hancock County commissioners have allocated funding for the program each year. She added that starting such a program in The County would be contingent upon funding and forging similar partnerships.

Russell said that the program would provide direction, support and guidance to job seekers who are either entering or re-entering the workforce after recovering from substance abuse addiction. She noted that an agency like AMHC could refer clients to the Aroostook County Action Program to assist with workforce development. The partners would build a support system for participants, assess them for work readiness and refer them to education, training or employment resources when they are ready.

“People recovering from addiction are ready to go back to work but are very sensitive and vulnerable,” she said. “We need to have resources in place to assist them. Addiction knows no boundaries. It can hit people in all levels of employment, all the way up to upper management. We are talking about people of all skill levels.”

Commissioners took no action at the meeting, but Russell stated her intention to return with a possible funding request.

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