AMHC Announces Updates to Senior Leadership Team

AMHC announces the following updates to its senior leadership team: Michelle Ferris, LCSW, Director of Emergency Services; Lorraine Chamberlain, LCSW, CCS, Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County; and Debra L. Jacques, Director of Marketing and Development.

Ellen Bemis, CEO, Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) has announced the following senior leadership updates: Michelle Ferris, LCSW to Director of Emergency Services; Lorraine Chamberlain, LCSW, CCS to Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County; and Debra L. Jacques as Director of Marketing and Development.

“I am pleased to share these updates regarding our senior leadership team,” said Bemis. “Each of these women possesses a great deal of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. They will be a great asset to AMHC in their new roles as we work as a team to support our clients and their families, expand our services and increase our presence in the communities we serve.”

As the Director of Emergency Services, Michelle Ferris is responsible for AMHC’s Mobile Crisis Services and Sexual Assault Services in Aroostook, Hancock, and Washington Counties, and Crisis Stabilization Units for both adults and children in Aroostook County. Michelle has been with AMHC for 14 years. She has held several positions since 2006, most recently serving as Emergency Services Supervisor in Aroostook County.

Lorraine Chamberlain has assumed the position of Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County. She is responsible for substance use and intensive outpatient program services including the Residential Treatment Facility in Limestone, Medicated Assisted Treatment and Behavioral Health services in the five outpatient offices in Aroostook. In addition, she oversees Children Behavioral Health Services that include the Behavioral Health Home services, Therapeutic Foster Care and Supportive Visitation.  Lorraine has served in many capacities since joining AMHC in 1982, most recently as the Director of Emergency Services, a position she held for 19 years.

Debra “Deb” Jacques is responsible for the agency’s marketing, planning and development activities. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and development and was most recently the Community Relations Manager for Katahdin Trust. The majority of Deb’s career has been in non-profit work, serving as the Business Development Director for Eastern Maine HomeCare (now Northern Light Home Care & Hospice) and as Resource Developer for Aroostook County Action Program.

AMHC Selected to Serve on National Advancing Health Equity Learning Collaborative

Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) has been selected to serve on a national Advancing Health Equity Learning Collaborative, a component of the Advancing Health Equity: Leading Care, Payment, and Systems Transformation program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lorraine Chamberlain, Program Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County will represent AMHC.

“It is an honor for AMHC to be chosen to participate in this collaborative,” said Ellen Bemis, AMHC CEO. “Our organization works daily with individuals who experience health disparities including poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education, housing and healthcare resources. With 37 years of experience in mental health, substance use and crisis services, Lorraine will be a tremendous voice and advocate in leading this transformational work to advance health equity at the national level.”

Representatives from state Medicaid agencies, Medicaid health plans, and health care organizations from Maine, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington were competitively selected to work together to reduce health disparities. For the next two years, the group will convene to design integrated health care delivery and payment models to reduce health disparities and then implement these efforts at health care delivery organizations and surrounding communities.

“This is the first attempt that we know of to bring together these three stakeholder groups to identify common goals for advancing health equity and then work together to implement them. We are excited about the potential of this project,” noted Andrea Ducas, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Celebrating 55 years, AMHC is a nonprofit organization supporting approximately 6,000 clients annually. The agency has 20 service sites and 325 employees located across Aroostook, Washington, and Hancock counties providing mental health, substance use, crisis and sexual assault services. For more information, connect with AMHC at

AMHC Raises Awareness on Suicide

In honor of Suicide Prevention Month, staff members at AMHC’s central office wore their “Don’t Let Your Story End” swag. AMHC is available to anyone experiencing a crisis. To access their Mobile Emergency Services team please call or text the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112.

September is designated as Suicide Prevention Month and Aroostook Mental Health Center has been partnering with other community organizations to highlight awareness, prevention, and local resources that are available to everyone.

“According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Mainers ages 10-45,” explains Michelle Ferris, Director of Emergency Services. “AMHC has been busy this month working with a number of other organizations to raise awareness. Maine’s suicide rate remains higher than the rest of the nation; I recently learned that more people in Maine die from suicide than from car accidents or breast cancer and for every homicide in Maine, there are seven sucides. AMHC is available to anyone experiencing a crisis. To access our Mobile Emergency Services team please call or text the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112.”

Activies that have taken place include:

  • Crisis Intervention Team training for Law Enformcement in Houlton – AMHC collaborated with NAMI Maine (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to train 17 officers on behavioral health issues. The offiers were provided tools and resources to manage behavioral health crises in the community.
  • Suicide Prevention training for Resident Assistants, UMFK
  • Out of the Darkness Walk, Fort Kent
  • Awareness table at Machias Saving Bank, Caribou
  • Student presentations on suicide prevention at Van Buren Middle and High Schools
  • Illuminate Life event, Boys and Girls Club, Presque Isle on Septembre 18
  • UMFK Student Health Fair on September 19
  • Community Suicide Awareness Presentation with NAMI and MADRN (Make A Difference Right Now), on September 19 in Calais
  • Anxiety and depression screenings at Cary Medical Center Health Fair on September 21 in Caribou

AMHC and Link for Hope host Grand Opening for Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope

An open house for the Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope (ARCH), located at 36 North Street, will be held on Saturday, September 14 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  ARCH, a service of Aroostook Mental Health Center in collaboration with Link for Hope, is a place where individuals can come and receive support for their recovery journey. ARCH will help connect people to resources and also serve as a venue for various recovery meetings.

It will be an important time of sharing with the community how a peer support recovery center like ARCH provides such a benefit to those struggling with alcohol and drug use.

The grand opening will include an overview of services offered, refreshments and a ribbon cutting at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome. Overflow parking will be accommodated at the former Portland Glass building next door. For more information, please contact Emily Bragdon at 493-1278 or Trudy Rairdon at 521-2283.

Downeast Treatment Center expanding services


For a little more than a year, the Downeast Treatment Center in Ellsworth has been working with area hospitals and organizations to help those with substance use disorders. Now, treatment center leaders are hoping to expand on the help being provided.

The opioid crisis affects people across the entire state and now the Downeast Treatment Center is providing more opportunity for those people seeking help.

“I don’t know if I‘d be alive,” said DTC patient Ryan Miller.  “I really think this place saved my life.”

Before Miller was a patient at the center he was behind bars. Now he’s employed and in his own words, picking up the pieces of his life.

“This and the structure from the Hancock County Drug Court program really has brought me a long way in life,” he said.

Leaders at the center are now focused on removing barriers to treatment so that more people can find help.

“Through a federal grant that’s come through Healthy Acadia we’re able to pay for treatment for people who either don’t have insurance or don’t have enough insurance so that cost is no longer a barrier,” said Healthy Acadia Community Health Program Manager Penny Guisinger. “It’s no cost to services to people who would benefit from that.”

The DTC provides medication-assisted treatment, using doctor-prescribed Suboxone to fight addiction.

“It takes care of cravings, and it keeps people from going into withdrawal, and those two single issues will wreck someones life,” said DTC Clinical Advisory Committee member Dr. Julian Kuffler.

Medication-assisted treatment paired with group counseling is what’s helping get addicts on the path to recovery.

“Being here is the only time they can talk about their recovery and their struggles,” said DTC Substance Abuse Counselor Lisa Groo. “Being out in the big wide world…there’s a stigma attached”

Through customized treatment plans, expanded hours and financial assistance, DTC leaders are hoping to help even more people.


AMHC’s New “Maine Mothers’ Network” Program Can Help Pregnant and Parenting Women Affected by Substance Abuse

AMHC urges pregnant and parenting women who use drugs or alcohol to call the Maine Mother’s Network (MMN) 24/7 referral line today.

Aroostook, Washington and Hancock Counties, Maine (Friday, May 29, 2019)— Aroostook Mental Health Services (AMHC) is urging women who are pregnant or parenting children five years of age and under to join a new, free program in northeastern Maine that can help them create a substance-free future for them and their children. The referral line for Maine Mothers’ Network is open 24/7 at 1-800-244-6431.

“Pregnancy is a time of hope for the future, and we know that for some women who use drugs or alcohol, the time can be a powerful force for change. Our goal is to help them gain access to needed services to attend to their substance use or become substance-free in order to give their baby the best possible start,” says Lorraine Chamberlain, LCSW, and Program Director at AMHC. “But we also know that breaking free of substances is both physically and mentally hard. Maine Mothers’ Network helps mothers with their unaddressed needs that are underlying substance use – helping them break the cycle of drug or alcohol use for good.”

In the context of an opioid epidemic that resulted in more than three hundred fatal overdoses in Maine last year, the program’s mission is even more urgent. Per the Maine Center for Disease Control, Maine’s per capita rate of substance-affected babies is the highest in the nation. Data from the Augusta-based Maine Children’s Alliance show that one in ten babies born in Aroostook County is born drug-affected, and this correlates with higher rates of infant death during the first year of life – a problem that is on the rise in Maine.

“This program is cost- and judgement-free,” says Chamberlain. “We want moms to call us, so we can help them get to the place they want to be. Our agency has helped thousands of people in Aroostook County recover from substance use over the past fifty years. We aren’t here to judge. We’re here to help.”

Each mom will be assigned a case manager who can help her with various needs – from health coverage, to healthy food for her and her baby, to help finding a place to live, high-quality childcare for her children, or get training for a better job. At the same time, moms will learn more about events from their own early lives that have led to the stressors that too often underlie high risk behaviors like substance use – and start the process of healing. National experts from the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) have recognized this program as an example of “evidence-based practice,” and skilled practitioners will be engaged using tele-health technology, ensuring that moms living in the country and small towns still receive first-class care.

Maine Mothers’ Network is offered through a consortium of partner agencies across the state of Maine, including AMHC, Crisis and Counseling, Day One, Tri-County Mental Health Services, and Wellspring. It is funded through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

AMHC is a private, non-profit community health and social service organization with operations in Aroostook, Hancock, and Washington Counties, Maine. We offer mobile crisis response and stabilization, outpatient, behavioral health home, rehabilitation, residential, peer support, supportive visitation, case management, and educational services to meet the community’s mental health, substance use, and brain injury treatment and recovery needs. Our mission is to provide integrated healthcare services that maximize an individual’s potential to recover and improve their quality of life.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions every year. Here are some facts about the prevalence and impact of mental illness.

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.

Social Stats

  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
  • 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
  • Just over half (50.6%) of children with a mental health condition aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans each use mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

Consequences Of Lack Of Treatment

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34.
  • More than 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of a mental health condition.
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.

What Is Stigma?
People experiencing mental health conditions often face rejection, bullying and even discrimination. This can make their journey to recovery longer and more difficult. Stigma is when someone, or you yourself, views you in a negative way because you have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as shame that can be felt as a judgment from someone else or a feeling that is internal, something that confuses feeling bad with being bad.

Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation, blame, and secrecy that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to reaching out, getting needed support and living well. Learning how to cope with stigma and how to avoid and address stigma are important for all of us.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (now Facing Addiction with NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 to help reduce the stigma so often associated with alcohol addiction by encouraging communities to reach out to the American public each April with information about alcohol, alcohol addiction, and recovery. Alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive disease, genetically predisposed and fatal if untreated. However, people can and do recover. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 20 million individuals and family members are living lives in recovery from alcohol use!

According to the NCADD, “Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.” Warning signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking to calm nerves, forget worries or boost a sad mood
  • Guilt about drinking
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop drinking
  • Lying about or hiding drinking habits
  • Causing harm to oneself or someone else as a result of drinking
  • Needing to drink increasingly greater amounts in order to achieve desired effects
  • Feeling irritable, resentful or unreasonable when not drinking
  • Medical, social, family or financial problems caused by drinking


How is AMHC addressing the issue?

  • Individual Outpatient Therapy (IOP)
  • Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Treatment programs, which require regular attendance for a set period of time.
  • Maine Mothers Network
  • Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) services for individuals seeking to regain their license following an operating under the influence charge.
  • Peer support
  • MAT services including Opioid Health Home
  • DMS (Detox management services)
    • Money available for medication
    • Treatment IOP, individual, residential
  • Residential Treatment Facility “The Farm”
  • Criminogenic treatment services
    • Working with local probation services
    • Diversion Academy
    • Mark Nelson working in Jail (Breaking Free program)
  • The Roads to Recovery Community Center services in Caribou and coming soon to Houlton
    • Various recovery meetings
      • AA
      • NA
      • Al-anon
      • Refuge recovery
      • men/women group
      • father/mother group
      • Recovery writing, art groups, music
      • Families Anonymous
    • Substance use and domestic violence
    • Maine can work
    • Narcan training
    • IOP has been attending every two to three weeks
      • High-power box
      • Jeopardy
      • music
      • Benefits are that our customers have increased confidence to participate in various recovery meetings


April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Join AMHC for the 20th Annual Denim Day on April 24th in support of Sexual Assult Awareness Month!


Wear Denim for your mother, sister, brother, grandmother, uncle, neighbor, cousin, cashier, teacher, father, friend… Wear it for all those who have been affected by Sexual Violence. Show your support. As a Community, we can end violence.


In 1992 an 18-year-old Italian woman was picked up by her driving instructor to begin her driving lesson. Soon after her instructor sexually assaulted her on the side of the road. She reported the incident and he was convicted. The instructor appealed the case to the Italian High Court. In 1999 the court overturned the conviction, with a member of the High Court declaring that since the victim was wearing very tight jeans, the instructor could not have removed them himself, therefore the victim must have been a willing participant. Women of the Italian legislature protested the decision by wearing jeans. As news spread so did the protest. In April 1999 the first Denim Day was established in the United States.


For more information please contact  AMHC Sexual Assault Services at 1-800-871-7741


AMHC and Healthy You Highlight Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) is pleased to participate in a series …

AMHC Peer Recovery Centers Hosting Public Events throughout Aroostook

Roads to Recovery (R2R) and Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope (ARCH), substance use peer recovery service providers, are …

AMHC Response to COVID-19

Message from Ellen Bemis, CEO “During this pandemic it is more important than ever to highlight that May is Mental Health …