Some of the most impactful policy work happens at the local level, in city council and county commissioner meetings, or in community with our partners as we organize to solve issues that affect the people we serve.
The American Rescue plan act
Health Equity Alliance is one of the convening organizations in Penobscot County calling on our government officials to create an open, accessible process for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies are spent by our county and municipal governments. Beyond sending an initial statement to our elected officials, the group is also asking that a certain percentage of funding be used for social service support and infrastructure so we can truly support our communities and neighbors in greatest need.
What may be the largest convening of county-wide social service and other community groups in Maine, the group held a press conference in Pickering Square in September featuring several speakers who provide services in Bangor and Penobscot County and people with lived and living experience. Speakers highlighted the dire need for mental health, substance use, harm reduction, and housing in our communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its collateral consequences have changed our lives and the world around us. The pandemic’s many impacts have caused considerable harm, especially for people suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders (SUD), as well as individuals who are unhoused and living in poverty. As you know, there is significant overlap between these groups of people and their experiences.
The problems in Penobscot County are numerous, deadly serious and mounting:
An overdose crisis with the second highest percentage of deaths among all counties in 2021 and twice as many per capita as Cumberland County;
Waiting lists for mental health care and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, and a significant need for more peer support services;
Shelters at capacity and a substantial lack of affordable housing; and
A chronically overcrowded jail.
Sadly, these distressing realities are not new. They have been known to us for years. They’re growing worse. They cry out for focused attention and substantial investments in healing and wellness.
September is National Recovery Month. It highlights the hope and promise of recovery for individuals experiencing mental health disorders and substance use challenges. This year’s theme—Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community—is a call to action.
This month is an opportune time to pause and consider how our communities and county can do considerably more to support individuals in need and solve more of our collective problems.
With unprecedented sums of federal money available to Penobscot County and its municipalities, including more than $60 million in American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funds for Penobscot County, the City of Bangor and surrounding municipalities, we urge you to create a public process to discuss community needs and ways to better address them.
Those ARPA dollars, combined with other resources and leveraged to secure additional funding, can change—even save—countless lives and make our communities healthier, safer and much more livable.
Before any action is taken to allocate federal funding to specific purposes, we ask for time to consider the brighter future possible for all of our neighbors—including the most vulnerable—and how our communities and county can benefit substantially in the long-term. Let’s have a meaningful conversation.
Below you can find the collaborative’s initial public statement, with signers (please note: signing on to this statement is not necessarily an endorsement of every action of the individual and collective groups).
Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN), Brewer
Bangor Friends of Affordable Housing, Bangor
Bangor Friends of People in Need, Bangor
Breaking the Cycle, Millinocket
Consumer Council System of Maine, Bangor and Statewide
Dignity First, Bangor
Fresh Start Sober Living Houses, Bangor and Brewer
Food AND Medicine, Brewer/Penobscot County
Greater Bangor Housing Coalition, Bangor
Health Equity Alliance (HEAL), Bangor/Penobscot County
Higher Ground, Brewer
Hope House, Bangor/Penobscot County
Indivisible Bangor, Bangor
Life Lessons Psychiatric Services, Bangor
Mabel Wadsworth Center, Bangor/Penobscot County
Maine Mental Health Connections, Bangor
Maine People’s Alliance, Statewide
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Statewide
Maine Prisoner Re-entry Network, Statewide
Needlepoint Sanctuary, Bangor
NAMI Maine, Statewide
No Penobscot County Jail Expansion, Bangor/Penobscot County
Peace & Justice Center, Bangor/Penobscot County
Pir2Peer Recovery Community Center, Millinocket
Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC), Bangor/Penobscot County
Penobscot County Jail Storytelling Project, Penobscot County
Poor People’s Campaign, Penobscot County/Statewide
Racial Equity & Justice, Bangor/Penobscot County
A Time To Rise -- Counseling & Wellness, Brewer
Together Place Peer Run Recovery Center, Bangor
Welcome to Housing Home Goods Bank, Inc., Bangor/Penobscot County