To the Editor: The value of human lives 

To the Editor: 

The retrenchment of clinical services at Acadia Family Center (AFC) in Southwest Harbor could not have come at a worse time. 

As your article last week about this partial closing of AFC points out, our community and the country today are confronting an epidemic that is destroying families and contributing to an escalating death toll. The newer synthetic drugs, cheaper to produce by drug cartels, are even more toxic while becoming increasingly widespread and available just as much in rural areas as in the cities. As anyone in law enforcement or state corrections will confirm, the poisonous proliferation of this problem fuels crime and erodes the fabric of our country. 

It is both ironic and outrageous that our beautiful island filled with extremely well-endowed summer communities has shown itself unable and/or unwilling to financially sustain the island’s only agency dedicated to counseling people struggling with addiction. Organizations focused on protecting our scenic environment, such as Friends of Acadia or Maine Coast Heritage Trust, enjoy booming multi-million-dollar endowments, while those that try to help people confront addiction problems like AFC or Open Door in Ellsworth have struggled for decades to keep their doors open. It is as if taking care of our breathtaking views and hiking trails trumps the value of taking care of human lives. 

Perhaps this epidemic is less visible because we are so blinded by the beauty of our island. No question there is something messy about admitting the existence of substance abuse and mental health problems. It disrobes class and economic distinctions with brutal honesty. It betrays human frailties with an embarrassing lack of decorum. 

Community support is essential to endow the human resources and organizations that are needed to seriously address this epidemic. As you start to dig into the core of this problem, you cannot camouflage the ugly issues of shame and low self-esteem that underlie addiction with scenic views. No magic bullet exists to fuel the courage needed to confront honestly the pain involved and build a healthy life based on recovery.  

Over the last two decades, a handful of dedicated people, both staff and volunteers at AFC, including seasoned island leaders like Sam Hamill, have worked hard to generate the resources needed to keep this vital agency alive. Over this period, AFC has rescued human lives and supported many more starting the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives. And it is the confidential nature of their success that keeps it from being widely recognized. 

It is beyond tragic to witness this glorious island incapable of helping its own. 

Bill Patten 

Hall Quarry 

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