Providing Judgement-free Support for Mainers
Keith Bellefleur, resident of Oakland, ME, has recently taken the position of OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety). Liaison for Somerset County. OPTIONS is one of the state’s strategies to reduce fatal and non-fatal drug-related overdoses in Maine. Liaisons provide judgment-free support and connect people who use drugs and those who love them with resources for harm reduction, treatment, and recovery. Each of the state’s counties currently has one Liaison and the state is doubling that number.
OPTIONS Liaisons work closely with first responders and are often embedded in police departments or health organizations. Keith is employed through a contract with Sweetser, a non-profit mental health provider with locations around the state.
His education and previous work experience in mental health and mobile crisis intervention position him well to be successful in the Liaison role. On a personal level he grew up in a distressed community and saw firsthand how substance use disorders can impact people and communities. “In my work with crisis intervention, I have noticed significant community needs and service gaps, and I feel working in OPTIONS is a great way to support these communities to identify and fill these gaps to the extent possible,” said Keith.
The help Keith can provide is dependent upon individual needs and goals. For some the assistance may including working with a person to develop some personal harm reduction strategies, obtaining supplies, accessing support, education and providing ongoing outreach. For others it may be more intensive and involve connecting a person to treatment, helping with transportation, coordinating with natural or professional support systems, and more.
One of Keith’s first referrals on the job began as a law enforcement corresponds for a mental health concern and while enroute the situation evolved into an overdose response.” The responding officer was able to revive the individual and we were able to get him into a treatment program that day,” he recalled. “I stayed in contact after discharge and was able to provide support to him and his family to access outpatient treatment and other recovery supports.”
Keith is impressed by the level of support and passion there is for the work throughout communities; particularly, by the law enforcement and corrections staff who have embraced OPTIONS and other community services as a way to assist them in their community work.
He feels that stigma is a barrier to people who use drugs getting the help they need. “Stigma is a significant factor in many chronic health issues, but substance use disorders often have a strong emotional component. It is a condition that has been subjected to blame and shame for as long as it has existed,” he said. “One of the biggest barriers to someone getting help is their fear of discussing this aspect of their lives due to their negative experiences or responses of others. SUD (substance use disorder) is simply not viewed the same as other chronic health conditions. There is lots being done to address some of this, but there is a lot more to be done. On an individual level, I try my best to help people reframe their understanding of SUD within the context of other chronic health issues.”
For more information about OPTIONS, visit the OPTIONS website, KnowYourOptions.ME. You may contact Keith Bellefleur at [email protected].
Article made possible with the support of the OPTIONS program and the Maine Office of Behavioral Health. KnowYourOptions.ME
Beth D’Ovidio is a public relations/communications professional with extensive experience writing compelling content for PR, marketing, and social media. She has 20 years of experience in developing and implementing successful media strategies, plans and campaigns.