What we do
We exist to save and improve the lives of those impacted by mental illness, substance use, homelessness, trauma, stigma, and poverty. Our street-level, low barrier programs address a number of unacceptable realities using a Peer Model, and we celebrate recovery every day!
Successive community initiatives to address the issue have helped individuals secure housing, yet the numbers of people seeking emergency shelter or sleeping in spaces unfit for human habitation has remained steady.
Food costs have risen dramatically over the last decade, while service industry wages and disability benefits hold individuals below the poverty line, even as access to food stamps has been dramatically reduced.
Healthcare and treatment
People with severe mental illness die up to 30 years earlier than the average, but in the last several years, access to affordable healthcare and necessary treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders has been reduced.
Community and supports
Loneliness, isolation, and lack of positive, sober relationships are factors that can perpetuate the misery, and impede the recovery, of those with mental illness and substance use disorders.
Detox, housing, treatment, and recovery supports are vital ingredients in saving the lives of those addicted to opiates, yet these resources are in critically short supply in our community.
Our Model: Peer Support
“Peers” have personal experience with mental illness, substance use disorder, and homelessness. They offer support and mentorship, often to those with complex, co-occurring and difficult issues and who struggle with traditional models of care. Peers are living, breathing examples of the possibility of recovery, communicating in a common language about shared experiences. They enter the relationship as equals and use these bonds to challenge, prod, cajole, and cheer on those who may otherwise appear to be hopelessly stuck in the misery of their current reality.
Opiate addiction shares characteristics with other substance use disorders, but it is set apart by its staggering fatality rates. Every community is sadly and acutely aware of this epidemic. Each year in Portland, the names of those lost to opiate overdoses are read aloud at a community vigil. It is a dishearteningly long, and too often familiar, list of names.
Detox, housing, treatment, and recovery supports are vital ingredients in saving the lives of those addicted to opiates, yet these resources are in critically short supply. We have two houses for women seeking recovery from opiate addiction. Many have suffered human trafficking, homelessness, domestic abuse, and/or incarceration traumas, and often do not feel safe around men. We help them stabilize and become both work ready and able to reconnect with their children and other loved ones, sometimes after years away.
Our Bath and Boothbay Peer Centers provide hands on Peer Support as well as links to healthcare, counseling, treatment, and support groups. They and other Amistad programs work closely with local and state community and government entities to provide a broad array of services.
Lack of access to healthcare and treatment
People with substance use disorder and/or severe mental illness die 30 years too young on average, due in part to the reduction in access to affordable healthcare and treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders. Many Mainers have lost their insurance, and decades of regressive legislation has broadened economic inequality and stripped the neediest among us of basic supports and protections.
Amistad provides free resource connections for those without case management supports. Our Peer Support Specialists provide links to healthcare, counseling, treatment, and peer-run support groups. Our peer support team at Mercy Hospital, and our street level Peer Outreach Worker (POW) and Rapid Access programs, offer immediate, effective, specialized and less costly help to those who might otherwise die on the streets or access emergency rooms that are less equipped to help them in the most effective way. Our team at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta has been assisting doctors and nurses since 2005, providing patients with vital support services, including assisting with their successful re-entry into the community and continued health.
Homelessness has become a malignant and intractable reality. Community initiatives to address the issue have helped individuals secure housing, yet the number of people seeking emergency shelter or sleeping in spaces unfit for human habitation has remained high. There is a strong correlation between homelessness, mental illness, and substance use disorders. Acute mental illness and/or substance use often leads to poverty, hospitalizations and other disruptions that make retaining housing difficult. The national Housing First effort recognizes how critical housing is to solving other costly, even deadly, problems.
Amistad is a critical partner in our community’s efforts to end homelessness. We participate with the Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee and Long-Term Stayers Initiative. Our Peer Outreach Worker program engages individuals staying at the homeless shelters and living in other forms of homelessness, helping with housing resources, meeting basic needs, and making critical connections. Our Portland Peer Support and Recovery Center offers free meals, locker space, showers, laundry, a clothing closet, mail services, and even help with managing basic finances.
For those trapped in poverty, and for many who struggle with mental illness and substance use disorders, hunger aggravates symptoms, invites illness and distress, and helps create starkly reduced life expectancy. Our Portland Peer Support and Recovery Center serves free breakfasts and lunches to all comers and distributes what we have left over each day. Additionally, we collect baby clothes for expectant mothers and deliver food to home-bound individuals and those unable to carry heavy loads. Future plans include a workforce development component centered on cooking and kitchen skills and a catering service.