News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 12, 2018
Recovery coach program hires island coordinator
‘On the ground’ help with substance abuse treatment

Recovery coach coordinator

Debra Matteson is recovery coach coordinator for Deer Isle and Stonington.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Debra Matteson has been selected as the Recovery Coach Coordinator for Deer Isle and Stonington and will spend one day a week at Island Family Medicine working with the community and volunteer coaches and hopefully recruiting new ones.

“She’ll be right down on the ground,” said Denise Black, Drug Free Communities Project Coordinator for Healthy Acadia.

A Lamoine resident, Matteson is transitioning from a long-term career in educational publishing and working on her licensed drug and alcohol counselor degree at the University of Maine. She has been a trained recovery coach since January 2017.

“I’m a person in long-term recovery,” she said. “I’ve immersed myself in being involved in the response to the opiate crisis.”

While trained, certified recovery coaches are used in conjunction with emergency and law enforcement agencies in neighboring states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, they are new to Maine. Locally the program falls under the umbrella of Healthy Acadia, with support on the island from Island Health and Wellness and the Opiate-Free Island Partnership, which is covering the cost of the coordinator position and volunteer training costs through its own fundraising efforts. The coordinator supports local volunteer coaches and works on recruitment and community collaboration.

With three local coaches authorized, four more are trained and ready to take the next steps to be authorized through CCAR Recovery Coach Academy, Black said. As the program grows “anywhere from five to 20” will be needed. “The idea is to have local coaches coaching in their community.”

Recovery coaches are not the first call someone makes who wants help for substance abuse or addiction or concerned family or friends. Rather, they are connected with clients by Healthy Acadia through the Hancock County Corrections system and Project HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort), a partnership of the Ellsworth Police Department, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and Healthy Acadia, and operate, in part, as a “resource broker,” Black said. Coaches serve those dealing with substance abuse and addiction, and their families. Coaches do not have to be in recovery themselves. Matteson noted that family members and friends affected by addiction are not usually equipped to help those close to them in the midst of substance abuse or addiction but can use that experience to help others.

“You can’t help your child but you can help someone else’s child,” she said.

The next recovery coach training will be held April 24-27 at the Ellsworth Ramada Inn. Advance registration is required. Call Denise Black at 667-7171 ext. 15 or email

To seek help for substance abuse or addiction, contact the Downeast Substance Treatment Network through AMHC at 1-800-244-6431 or contact Island Family Medicine. A new Downeast Treatment Center opens April 16 at 406 State Street, Suite 2, in Ellsworth. A weekly Narcotics Anonymous meeting is held Tuesdays, 7 p.m., in the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital cafeteria.