The Midcoast Recovery Coalition has ambitious plans for Knox County and its neighbors.

Despite what he called "some bumpy times," Rockland-based family practitioner Dr. Ira Mandel said the effort that began as Knox County Recovery Coalition is on track.

Before tackling a list of goals aimed at addressing drug addiction in the Midcoast over the next two years, the coalition is stopping to gather information.

The group released a survey with which it hopes to learn more about local drug abuse and associated factors. The survey can be found at the following link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3294422/MCRCSubAbuseAssess

Mandel, who has treated opiate addiction with the drug Suboxone for about 10 years, started the coalition with other concerned residents after community meetings in Rockland last February.

The group was renamed in December to reflect a desire to include nearby communities, such as the islands, Waldoboro and Lincolnville, Mandel said.

Along with the name change comes a reorganization and a list of specific goals, including a major reduction in teen addiction in Knox County, an even bigger increase in access to both medication-assisted and abstinence-based recovery services, a support system for addicted mothers and their families, a support system for recently released jail inmates with substance use disorders, and an expanded program of trained coaches to help connect addicts to recovery resources.

The coalition's survey seeks basic information such as the town respondents live in or the type of employment they have, but also includes questions such as, “When you were a child, were there adults in your household whom you saw abusing alcohol or other drugs?” and, “What conditions in your community help people to avoid abusing substances?”

Mandel said that despite having a “fire-ready-aim” type of personality, he recognizes the need for more information. Without it, he said, the coalition’s efforts could go awry.

“You can make terrible mistakes. You can be wasteful because you didn’t do it the right way. If you didn’t do any harm at least you wasted money, and time,” he said. “We do need to do a certain amount of study before we act.”

According to the survey announcement, respondents can submit their answers anonymously. The announcement also says the information “will help MCRC apply for grants needed to more effectively address and prevent addiction.”

The grant push comes as part of a reorganization that began in the fall. A coalition recovery center established on School Street in Rockland to provide free information and resources to addicts closed in November. It had been staffed by 12 “recovery coaches” trained by the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery, who split off to form their own independent organization, though Mandel said the two entities remain “joined at the hip.” He said the coaches are now looking for a new space in which to open a recovery center.

In December, Mandel released an email update which said volunteer involvement had declined over the group’s seven-month existence and progress had stalled. The circumstances led the coalition to register as a financially independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization and retain paid staff.

He has also emphasized, however, that volunteers will be needed, and that part of the coalition's purpose is to bring people who are not sure what to do into the fight against addiction.

The coalition is seeking multiple grants to achieve its goals, including plans to apply for a five-year, $625,000 federal Drug Free Communities grant to go toward its efforts in reducing teen addiction. According to the grant website at whitehouse.gov, the DFC program “provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance abuse.”

The coalition has also applied for a grant from the Up East Foundation to develop a program to train mentors who will specialize in support for addicted mothers and their families.

The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome – drug withdrawal suffered by newborn infants due to exposure to addictive substances consumed by the pregnant mother – has increased dramatically in recent years. In a report released by the Center for Disease Control in August 2016, Maine had the second highest rate of NAS among 28 states with publicly available data in 2012, the last year for which data was available. A 2015 Department of Health and Human Services report placed Knox County in the middle of the pack among Maine counties for rates of drug-affected baby notifications in 2012-2014.

And the group is seeking a Sewall Foundation grant for a program to support recently released Knox County Jail inmates with their reentry into society. Mandel said the program would be modeled on the Restorative Justice Project.

He has also had high praise for a partnership in Lincoln County between the sheriff’s office and the Addiction Resource Center to provide jail inmates with treatment, including counseling, both during their sentence and indefinitely upon release to promote recovery and prevent a return to the correctional system.

The Midcoast Recovery Coalition will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at Rockland City Hall to select board members, provide information, and answer questions.

MCRC's Substance Abuse Assessment survey can be found at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3294422/MCRCSubAbuseAssess.

The Midcoast Recovery Coalition can be reached at 701-1182. The Knox County Recovery Coach Program can be reached at 691-3697 or by email at knoxcountyrc@gmail.com.