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Bangor City Council: the circle of caring has broken

I’ve been biting my tongue for a long time now about the “Circle of Caring.”

It seems to me that if I choose to honor all roads to addiction recovery (I do) then I ought to celebrate all efforts to support recovery. I was initially touched to see photos of folks holding hands and acknowledging that addiction is a hugely destructive force in our community. Now I’m asking, “Ok, and after they put the cameras away, what did you do then?”

On June 27th the Bangor City Council posed for pictures of their “Circle of Caring.” On August 1st they reportedly grilled management of Colonial Management Group about expanding the number of clients their agency serves from 300 to 500. This is not an expression of caring.

It’s treating addiction recovery as though it is less deserving than recovery from any other disease.

The council and many other Bangor residents have raised a valid point – Bangor disproportionately to all other municipalities, hosts professional services to those seeking freedom from addiction. What is seemingly lost in this conversation is that Bangor disproportionately provides a host of other medical services as well.

If the intent of the Circle of Caring is to reduce stigma, then the City Council must consider why it treats addiction treatment differently than it does treatment for any other disease. I cannot imagine outrage and undue scrutiny being placed upon expansion of a new dialysis clinic or cardiac unit.

Regardless of what medical/healing service a provider offers, Bangor does lose something when that provider is a nonprofit.  It often loses property tax revenue. That’s legitimate, yet there does not seem to be any other medical organizations under attack – only a Methadone clinic.

In Monday’s meeting Councilman Gibran Graham suggested that the regional director for Colonial Management Group ought to drive from Bangor to Aroostook County and back because, “That’s what you’re asking patients to do every day.”

No sir. No, it is not. Colonial Management is not asking patients to do any such thing. It is not their responsibility to expand into rural areas at all. Further, if they did so and lost money (especially after receiving state subsidized Medicaid) they’d be crucified for irresponsibly managing a company that accepts Maine Care and Medicare. (Not to further stigma: folks with all types of private insurances and cash payments access these services).

When’s the last time any of us expressed our outrage to the Veteran’s Administration for the amount of travel required by those living in rural areas? When’s the last time we targeted a private sector business and argued that they have a responsibility to set up shop somewhere?

It’s only with addiction treatment that we feel justified in being outraged and acting put upon.

That’s not caring and it doesn’t decrease stigma – it increases it.

Bangor City Council – we need better from you. There are folks on wait lists – trying not to die, trying to detox at home, remaining dependent on street drugs….all while you wrestle with an issue that in truth you’ve been wrestling without resolution to for many years.

I’m in Brewer. My organization supports addiction recovery and we’re damned proud of it. If you’re put upon and burdened, work with me to shift some of your hardship across the bridge.

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