Maine Primary Care Association and Penobscot Community Health Care Launch Pilot Program to Combat Opioid Epidemic in Maine

BANGOR, Maine, Nov. 10—An innovative program expanding low-barrier treatment for opiate use disorder—potentially serving thousands of people across Maine—launches this month at six of the state’s community health centers. This pilot project—training community-based providers to build and maintain medically assisted treatment clinics—will increase access to this critically needed treatment in areas most affected by the opiate crisis, including the hard-hit rural areas of Maine.

Project ECHO, led by Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) and the Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA), will train six community health centers (representing nearly 65% of Maine community health center’s total patient population) to build programs modeled after PCHC’s Bridge Clinic in Bangor. Through the 12-month ECHO model, teams from each health center will learn to build, evaluate and improve their own programs.

“Low-barrier treatment for opioid use disorder means that people can access life-saving, evidence-based care more easily and more quickly, at a time when they are most motivated to get that care,” said Noah Nesin, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer at PCHC and an original planner of the Bridge Clinic. “That care is delivered in a manner that addresses the practical realities of their life, including issues like transportation, food, housing and social supports. This is the way we treat all other chronic diseases in primary care; by working first to engage with people on their terms, doing all that we can to initially stabilize their disease and then to collaborate in progressing toward a more comprehensive treatment plan.”

The successful launch of the project is the result of more than three years of work by health centers, legislative leaders, and the Mills Administration to develop strategies to address OUD. PCHC providers and operations experts will act as faculty, coaching and supporting the participating health centers as they create their own programs.

Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, Clinical Director at Maine Primary Care Association, said, “This low barrier model, coupled with the access afforded by community health centers in the most rural of states has the potential to be a game-changer. As we work to make MAT available to all patients at all stages of their disease, community health centers will provide evidence that this low barrier model is the key to addressing disparities in access to care for opiate use disorder.”

What is low-barrier Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

  • MAT is a proven effective method of addressing substance use/opioid use disorder. Low-barrier treatment puts as few hurdles as possible in front of people seeking treatment and recovery. Unlike other modes of treatment, low-barrier means greater access with fewer requirements.
  • Low-barrier MAT connects with people who are not currently able to access treatment as well as provide access to other supports in the community.
  • Community health centers are integral parts of their communities and thus uniquely positioned to support long-term healthcare relationships, especially with people who may not have had success with other treatment models.

The six participating health centers in this program include:

In addition to the health centers participating in this pilot, 100% of Maine’s community health centers have signed an opioid pledge, committing to continuous action as a network to address this epidemic. For more information on this program, participants, and pledge, click here.

About Penobscot Community Health Care

Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) is a non-profit, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) founded in 1997 to ensure access to comprehensive, integrated primary health care services for all to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and the Maine communities served. Seventeen practices and program service sites in the Bangor area, and in Belfast and Jackman, offer a wide range of services, including family medicine, dental, pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, medication-assisted treatment and substance use disorder services, urgent/walk-in care services, as well as specialty services such as speech, audiology and chiropractic services, retail and primary care pharmacy, and healthcare for the homeless. Online at

About Maine Primary Care Association

Founded in 1981, Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA) is a membership organization that represents the collective voices of Maine’s Community Health Centers, which provide high quality, primary and preventive medical, behavioral health, and dental services to over 210,000 individuals (1 in 6 Mainers) each year. With 70 service locations throughout the state, Maine’s Community Health Centers provide high-quality care to our underserved and rural populations. Often referred to as Maine’s healthcare safety net, our community health centers provide more than $16,000,000 in uncompensated care and $7.5 million in free and reduced-cost prescriptions annually while being ranked in the top five nationally per capita in assisting the uninsured and underinsured gain health insurance. For more information, please visit us on the web at or call (207) 621-0677.