A drug recovery community center operated by Commonspace, formerly known as Amistad, partially opened in Newcastle last week after months of public opposition caused the nonprofit to pull a business license application in Wiscasset this summer.
The Lincoln County Recovery Community Center, housed in a rented location at 3 Hall St., is a successor to the Harbor Peer Recovery and Wellness Center in Boothbay Harbor. It will be fully operational by October as a community center with peer counseling services, support groups, and events, according to Brian Townsend, Commonspace’s executive director.
It will not offer clinical services or treatment.
“Recovery community centers are formed by people in recovery, for people in recovery,” Townsend said. “They exist to provide peer recovery support services, educate the community about addiction and recovery, and promote the positive benefits of recovery in order to reduce stigma.”
The Portland-based nonprofit was first contracted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to provide a peer recovery center in Lincoln County in 2018. Commonspace operates another recovery community center in Bath and has run recovery centers, harm reduction, and housing services in Portland over the last several decades.
The resulting center in Boothbay Harbor operated for almost five years before closing to find more central location with lower overhead costs, Townsend said in July. Like its predecessor, the Lincoln County center is limited to personal support and will not be licensed at a level to offer treatment, needle exchanges, or housing, according to Townsend.
Commonspace first submitted a business license application for the peer recovery center at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church at 12 Hodge St. in Wiscasset this spring.
The town’s ordinances required a public hearing for the license. The Wiscasset Select Board ended public comment on July 18 to table the application for two months, asking for a detailed operations plan and, one board member said, an opportunity for the organization to look elsewhere.
Residents spoke against the application in Wiscasset with concerns about their property values, criminal activity, demands on emergency services, operation details, and the character of the town.
In a July 28 letter to the board pulling the application, Townsend said the process was taking too long to continue waiting, and that the public hearing had displayed “an organized and mobilized opposition, working tactically” on a level he had never seen in other towns.
Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons said in July that a hearing was required for all new business licenses following the town’s ordinances. Newcastle’s ordinances allow the town to issue licenses without public hearing.
A proposed workforce housing project at the St. Philip’s site was not pulled and remains under consideration, church leadership said in August.
Between the closing of the Boothbay Harbor location and the opening of Newcastle, services continued one-on-one and virtually without a central meeting location, according to Townsend.
Commonspace is a member of the Lincoln County Substance Use Prevention Partnership, Townsend said, and works in connection with organizations including Healthy Lincoln County, LincolnHealth, and Central Lincoln County YMCA.
For more information, call the center at 563-6374.