Waterville center that provides mental health, other services to close

WATERVILLE — The building that houses the Waterville Peer Recovery Center is for sale, and virtual programming for those dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues is scheduled to end next week.

The center has seen a decline in participation in its services since before the COVID-19 pandemic, leading more people to self-isolate, according to Linda Schreiber, interim executive director of the Maine National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Staffing and maintenance costs at the building at 32 Ticonic St. are no longer sustainable, prompting the NAMI Maine board to vote last month to sell the building, Schreiber said this week.

“We’re always thinking, ‘Are we being the best stewards of the resources we have and how many people are we impacting with the dollars we’re investing?’” Schreiber said.

Staff members at the center are working with a “handful” of people to help them transition to other resources in the area, such as the LINC Recovery and Wellness Center at 38 Memorial Drive in Augusta, Schreiber said.

“I think it’s going to be a very smooth transition,” he said, “because LINC is doing similar programming and has a wonderful program.”

Schreiber said that two or three people participate in specialized discussion or support groups, and three to five people have been attending community meetings. Meetings have largely been held over Zoom since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

“It’s hard to lose a place like this that was so important at a time when you’ve been struggling in life,” Schreiber said.

The numbers have dropped from a membership of around 60 when the Waterville Peer Recovery Center opened in April 2018. The building previously housed the Waterville Social Club, which helped adults deal with mental illness and expanded its services. and support groups after being taken over by NAMI Maine.

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Schreiber cited the stigma associated with mental illness and recovery as one of the reasons people avoid support services. One of the main goals of the center has been to reduce that stigma, according to Schreiber.

The transition to Zoom turned out to have unexpected benefits, including increased access to services and more training for educators, police officers and others.

“It really opened up access to a lot of Maine people who live in remote communities,” Schreiber said.

He noted that LINC is providing many support groups and services via Zoom, which should help ease the transition for those at the Waterville Peer Recovery Center.

Schreiber said he is hopeful for the future of the building at the corner of Ticonic and Edwards streets, and said there has been interest from a group that provides similar services.

“Our greatest hope is that another agency or entity can come in and provide similar recovery services that are needed in the community,” Schreiber said.

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