People in the community have been contacting the Waldo County Recovery Committee, expressing interest in helping with WCRC's efforts against addiction.

"Often times the question is — what can we do?" Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jason Trundy  said in a press meeting Monday. "There is not always an easy answer to this and there is not always something that a volunteer can do."

A task force created last summer with the goal of diverting people with substance abuse and mental illness from incarceration, WCRC has been meeting weekly over the last year, exploring ways to combat the opioid crisis in Waldo County.

Trundy said it is a local initiative to try and harness some local resources to "do what we can in the community."

The committee includes representatives of the Sheriff's Office, Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast, Seaport Community Health Center, Greater Bay Area Ministerium, Volunteers of America of Northern New England and Maine Adult Community Corrections.

Trundy said the Volunteers of America identified an AmeriCorps grant for recovery coaches, available through Healthy Acadia, and WCRC members thought it was a good method for reaching the community, offering support and enlisting help from residents.

According to Robyn Goff, program manager at VOANNE, recovery coaches are peer support and serve as resource brokers, connecting individuals with resources in the community so they can achieve a successful path to recovery.

Trundy said, "I see recovery coaches as people in the community who've been there. They've had experience with addiction, they can speak from that place as a peer, or someone who fully understands what this person is going through, and can link them to the resources they need."

Last fall the Sheriff's Office, together with VOANNE, successfully applied and later received the AmeriCorps grant, which afforded them the opportunity to hire one full-time and two part-time recovery coaches.

The agreement is for a year of service; full-time members receive a living allowance of $13,732, a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,920 that can be used to pay for college or pay down student loans, health insurance, mileage and training; half-time members receive a $6,866 stipend with a $2,960 education award, and part-time members receive a $1,000 stipend with a $1,252 education award.

Individuals 55 years old or older at time of their AmeriCorps service may transfer their education award to a child, grandchild or foster child. At the completion of their term, members can re-apply for a second year

According to a press release from the Sheriff's Office, recovery coaches serve as personal guides and mentors for people seeking recovery, helping them remove barriers and navigate systems to meet their treatment, wellness and recovery support goals. The coaches work directly with men and women who are leaving Two Bridges Regional Jail and Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center and returning to Waldo County.

A four-day training session for recovery coaches is being offered at the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency March 12-15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

"This might be a good fit for folks who are passionate about this topic or have a loved one that has struggled with this, or maybe they have struggled with this in their past, (and) they are looking for someway to give back," Trundy said.

Hosted by Healthy Acadia, the program will be based on the nationally recognized Connecticut Community Addiction Recovery program. This intensive training focuses on providing individuals with the skills needed to guide, mentor and support anyone who would like to enter into or sustain long-term recovery from an addiction.

The course fee of $200 includes a Recovery Coach Academy manual and participants can earn 30 continuing education units. Full and partial scholarships are available. For more information or to register for this program, contact denise@healthyacadia.org or terri@healthyacadia.org.

According to Goff, program graduates can become volunteer recovery coaches, apply to AmeriCorps for paid positions, or apply to be a recovery coaches for another organization.

Maine RecoveryCorps Program Manager Sonia Turanski said in a press release that this program "fills an important gap in local recovery efforts by providing a free peer-to-peer support service to those struggling to overcome addiction."

"The challenges of recovery are multifaceted," Turanski said, "and often are compounded by practical concerns such as acquiring sufficient clothing, food, shelter, transportation, access to helpful services, and connection to local recovery communities.

"RecoveryCorps members serve as mentors and role models, providing individual support to the recoverees in their effort to overcome these barriers," she said.