Senator Collins Hails Bangor Area Recovery Network as a ‘Model’ for Substance Abuse Treatment

Expert Witness calls Peer Recovery Support Specialists like BARN “Key Component” for those in Treatment & Recovery

***Senator Collins also announced at the hearing that she will introduce new bills tomorrow combatting the opioid epidemic***


Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with hearing witnesses

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Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Health Committee hearing today on the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic, U.S. Senator Susan Collins hailed the importance of peer-to-peer recovery groups like the Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN) in treating those struggling with substance abuse.  BARN is a Brewer-based, volunteer-led organization founded in 2008 that provides support to individuals recovering from addiction as well as their families.  Each month, BARN hosts between 110 and 125 recovery meetings and receives approximately 6,000 visits.  Senator Collins also announced that she will introduce three new bills this week to respond to the substance abuse crisis, including one that will support peer-to-peer groups.


Before a panel of three substance abuse specialists, Senator Collins outlined the vast and growing reach of the heroin epidemic in Maine: “In Maine, we experienced a record high number of overdose deaths last year claiming some 418 lives.  This past weekend there were nine overdoses as a result of some fentanyl laced heroin. Fortunately, first responders were able to save these individuals,” said Senator Collins.  “But it is so clear that we need to take an all-of-the-above approach to addressing the opioid epidemic.”


“One way that families are finding support is through peer-to-peer recovery groups,” Senator Collins continued.  “I toured the volunteer-led Bangor Area Recovery Network in Brewer, Maine, last year that is a model for peer led counseling and brings hope, recovery, and healing to those who are struggling with substance abuse.”


Senator Collins then asked Jessica Hulsey Nickel, the founder and President & CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum, to provide her insight on the effectiveness of peer-to-peer groups like BARN.  Ms. Hulsey Nickel responded with a clear statement of support for the importance of these programs: “Peer recovery support specialists are a key component to making sure that we provide the services that are needed for folks that are in recovery or those that need treatment. Individuals that have lived experience and that can make that connection,” responded Ms. Hulsey Nickel.  “We have learned this through peer programs in the mental health lane and peer program in veterans services, and it is the same for our patient group… We need more research to make sure that we are putting this in the right direction, and we definitely need more funding support.”


Senator Collins has successfully advocated for increased funding to help address the opioid epidemic.  As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins fought to ensure that the fiscal year 2018 funding bill included $4.65 billion for opioid and heroin abuse prevention, and treatment, a $3 billion increase over the previous year.  In addition, Senator Collins coauthored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in 2016 to improve drug