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Author Archives: TCT Editorial Staff

Project Thrive helps students with remote learning

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – The combination of remote learning and in-person classes can be hard for children to navigate.

And it’s even harder for their parents, who are working full-time jobs while trying to help with school work and homework.

That’s where the remote learning center called Project Thrive tries to make a difference.

Sadie Landry, the founder of Project Thrive, a remote learning center in Lewiston, works with Owen Blackwood, a first-grader at Farwell School, and Abigail Woso, a second-grader at Geiger Elementary School. (Tsukroff photo)

Working with the hybrid model of schooling in the Lewiston school district this year, Sadie Landry of Pelletier’s Karate Academy, now provides support and guidance for students during their remote learning days through Project Thrive.

“We help them with their Zoom (sessions), with their remote lessons . . . get them to get their work done and pass it in,” Landry said. “But then we also have extra-curricular activities. We have art, we do music, we do karate, we do yoga. We do these extra things with the kids in between, to keep them structured, stimulated and keep them learning.”

The school hybrid model has students attending classes in person two days a week, with remote learning the rest of the week. This created a strain for many parents, Landry said, as they juggled work with the need to help with schooling.

Another issue in the spring, when schools first shut down because of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, was the lack of devices for students to use for the remote schooling, she said. That issue was resolved this fall when the school district was able to issue laptop computers or tablets to all the students.

Landry worked to obtain licensing as a daycare center at the karate academy building, at 1 Taylor Hill Rd, just off Main Street on the north side of Lewiston. The building received emergency temporary approval as a daycare under the pandemic conditions, and an inspection from the Lewiston fire department has approved the facility for up to 50 students at a time.

 With the Lewiston schools dividing student into two groups, or cohorts, one group attends school Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other is at school Thursdays and Fridays. Both cohorts have remote school on Wednesdays. Project Thrive provides help with remote schooling for students on the two days they are not in the regular school building, with each cohort attending for a half-day on Wednesday.

Landry said she came up with the concept for Project Thrive, then had help from Millie Barnard of Lewiston to bring the project to life. “I just knew that we had a lot of need in the community. And I knew that I had a lot of friends that just struggled in the springtime, and basically their kids weren’t doing anything,” she said.

Gracie Brownlee, a fourth-grade student at Montello School in the Lewiston school district, works on homework during a remote learning day at Project Thrive in Lewiston. (Tsukroff photo)

 “For me, here at the karate school, we were able to have some karate classes during the day” in the spring, Landry said. “But then when school started, I knew I was going to lose that. And then I thought, well, I could do like a learning center for kids, and then I started talking with Millie about it and kind of came up with the whole thing.”

Barnard has worked as a substitute teacher and brings that expertise to Project Thrive.

Although the building is approved for a multitude of students, Landry said she would prefer to limit attendance to about 15 students per session, in order to give them the attention they deserve. There are currently only about eight students in each of the cohorts at Project Thrive.

Besides Barnard, staff at Project Thrive include Barnard’s sister, Grace Kidd, plus Justin Roundy and Emma Jacques. Staff members are paired off and stay with their own cohort.

Jace Sinard, a first-grader at Farwell School in Lewiston, works on a homework project with support from Project Thrive staff member Millie Barnard on a recent remote learning day. (Tsukroff photo)

Per Almquist, a longtime instructor at the karate academy, has taken on the administrative duties for Project Thrive.

Parents who are interested in enrolling their child or children in Project Thrive may contact Pelletier’s Karate Academy at 207-786-3731.

CMH updates visitor policy

From CMH

LEWISTON, Maine: Nov. 19, 2020 – Central Maine Healthcare updating its visiting policy Friday to protect the health and safety of patients, staff and the greater community during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new policy is in effect at Central Maine Healthcare hospitals, practices and clinics.

Central Maine Healthcare wants its patients to have support from loved ones during their care. To reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, Central Maine Healthcare is limiting foot traffic and the number of people entering its facilities. The new policy balances those needs.

Visiting hours:

Bridgton Hospital: Monday – Friday: 3-6 p.m., Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – noon.

Central Maine Medical Center: Daily – 3-6 p.m.

Rumford Hospital: Daily – 3-6 p.m.

Outpatients: One companion will be allowed to escort the patient only if the companion is needed to assist or actively participate in the visit.

Inpatients: One visitor allowed per day. If the visitor leaves the facility, they may not reenter that same day. We encourage the patient’s family and friends to coordinate in advance who will be the visitor for a given day to avoid any confusion.

COVID-19 patients: No visitors unless critically ill, in end-of-life care or facing other extraordinary circumstances. In those situations, the patient may have one visitor.

Non-COIVD-19 patients who are critically ill, in end-of-life care: These patients facing extraordinary circumstances may have two visitors at a given time.

Birthing mothers: One birth partner is allowed in the labor and delivery area and must remain on the unit until discharge.

Discharges: We will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis for patients who require additional assistance.

Cafeterias are closed to visitors. Visitors may want to consider bringing lunch or snacks that do not need to be refrigerated or heated up.

Veterans Council receives Spirit of America Award

Out and About

By Rachel Morin

The LA Veterans Council received the Spirit of America Award designated by the City of Lewiston and presented by Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer to Jerry DeWitt, Chairman of the LA Veterans Council in early October.

The Award was recognized by Maine Senator Susan Collins in a congratulatory letter to the LA Veterans Council.

The Spirit of America Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity established in Augusta in 1990 to honor volunteerism in America. The award is presented in the name of Maine municipalities.

Alma Jones received the first Spirit of America Award from Augusta Mayor William Burney in November of 1991. The tribute has been presented in over 500 ceremonies since.

 Donna Brookings of Gorham, center, the Maine State Quilt of Valor Coordinator, presents the Quilt of Valor to Jerry DeWitt, left, and Clifford Plourde. (Charlie Paul Photo)

The LA Veterans Council does volunteer work for Veterans and their families, but is probably best known for its volunteer work establishing the beautiful Veterans Memorial Park on the banks of the Androscoggin River in Lewiston. Memorial Stones bearing the names of Veterans in the many branches of service and years of service are lined up in rows. Memorial benches also have engraved names of Veterans who served our country.

The recent arrival of the A7D plane from an airfield in Helena, Montana is now on raised pedestals in the Veterans Memorial Park for visitors to admire. It was over two years in the arrangement for its loan and the trip across country according to Jerry DeWitt who was heavily involved in the transfer, along with other volunteers of the LA Veterans Council.

DeWitt of New Gloucester has received awards himself for his work with youth in civil aviation, among them two Civil Air Patrol plaques, listing the Brewer Award, Senior Member, and the other as Legislative Member of the Year. Both plaques list him as Lt. Col. Jerry DeWitt and dated in 2018.

DeWitt also received the prestigious Quilt of Valor on November 12 at the U.S. Marine Birthday Banquet held at Davinci’s Restaurant in Lewiston. The Marines were also observing their 250th Birthday!

A Quilt of Valor (QOV) is a quality, handmade quilt that is machine or hand quilted. It is awarded to a Service Member or Veteran who has been touched by war. The quilt says unequivocally, “Thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation.”

To use the term Quilt of Valor, Quilts of Valor or QOV, the quilt must be a specific size, must have a label with required information, it must be awarded (it is not a gift) and it must be recorded.

History of QOV—those comforted as of October 31, 2020:

Last Month, 3,746; Year to Date; 18,320; Lifetime Total, 260,805

DeWitt has served in the U.S. Army all around the world and now works at Tri-County Mental Health Services. He has a soft spot for Veterans, especially homeless veterans, and works with them to find housing. He is dedicated to his role at LA Veterans Council and works hand in hand with its volunteers to aid veterans.

A Vietnam-era A-7D Corsair II airplane rests on raised pedestals in Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston for visitors to admire. Arriving from an airfield in Helena, Montana, it is on loan as arranged by Chairman Jerry DeWitt and the LA Veterans Council. (Jerry DeWitt Photo)

Safe Voices helps victims escape domestic violence, sexual trafficking

200 to 300 youths and adults are exploited each year in Maine

By Nathan Tsukroff

“Human Trafficking”

When someone is forced to work, or to perform sexual acts, in exchange for the basic necessities of life, they are being trafficked.

This labor or abuse is often accompanied by physical violence, and similar tactics are used in personal relationships, leading to what we know as sexual or domestic violence.

“Often what we’re seeing is people who have been living in Maine – perhaps lived here their whole lives – are being trafficked, right here in our state,” said Elise Johansen from Safe Voices, a non-profit group whose mission is to support and empower those affected by domestic violence in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. The group also works to engage communities in creating social change.

Maine’s first human trafficking needs assessment was conducted in 2015 by Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc., using known statistics, surveys with members of law enforcement, and interviews with service providers, stakeholders and survivors.

The majority of information for the assessment related to sex trafficking, which occurs when someone benefits from the sale of another person for sex acts through force, fraud, coercion, threats, or manipulation, or when the person is a minor.

Johansen said there are about 200-300 victims of sex trafficking in Maine per year. The vast majority of these crimes in Maine go unreported, and researchers estimate that only 14 percent of trafficking victims report the crimes committed against them, according to a February 2017 report by a Maine Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Sexual exploitation is the exchange of sex acts for anything of value where the individual is manipulated into the agreement as a result of addiction or desperation. This exploitation may then lead the victim into being trafficked.

The 2015 assessment did not have enough information to determine the level of labor trafficking in Maine at that time. Labor trafficking occurs when a person is forced to work or provide services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Most of the focus on labor trafficking in Maine concentrates on agriculture, according to the assessment.

A message of hope from Sexual Assault Prevent and Response Services, which works to prevent and eliminate sexual violence and to promote healing and empowerment for people of all genders and ages affected by rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. (Photo courtesy of SAPARS)

 Victims of sex trafficking in Maine are typically girls and women 14 to 30 years old, from both rural and urban communities, with a history of sexual or physical abuse, and lacking basic needs and an emotional support system, according to the assessment.

Survival sex and trafficking are often interchangeable. Victims and survivors said they would rather do things they didn’t want to do in exchange for meeting basic needs. For many, they were led into sex trafficking with the belief they were in a personal, intimate relationship with the trafficker.

One of the ways traffickers control their victims is through drug addiction. And some victims turn to drugs as a way to escape the pain and self-loathing from being trafficked.

“There is a federal definition of (sex) trafficking, and we do see that in Maine,” Johansen said. “And we also see a lot of sexual exploitation, where someone might say, ‘Hey, you can come sleep on my couch and live with me because I know you have nowhere to go, but in order for you to do that, you need to have sex with me.’”

 Or a victim may be told, “’I’ll give you some drugs, but you need to do this with my friend over there’,” Johansen said. “Or, ‘If you want to live here, then you need to go and start doing this with a bunch of other people, and all the cash needs to come home to me’.”

Recognizing they are being exploited or traffic is a first step for a victim to start their escape from their situation, and Safe Voices provides resources for victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Safe Voices provides the only safe house in the area for these victims, Johansen said. “So we do allow and have people live there, but most of what we do is provide advocacy, legal support in the criminal and civil courtrooms, and we provide support groups.”

The group also assists people in safety planning and learning about community resources. “So all of the same scope of services that we provide to victims of sexual abuse and violence, we also provide to victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation,” Johansen said.

Escaping from the trafficker can be difficult for the victim. “A lot of times, victims will interact with law enforcement, and law enforcement is really committed to ending human trafficking in Maine and seeing people being affected by it as victims and not as perpetrators of crime,” Johansen said. Instead of charging sex trafficking victims with the crime of prostitution, police officers are now connecting the people they are finding on the streets with Safe Voices and other community resources.

“And so we get referrals that way. We get referrals from other community service organizations, human service organizations, case managers, churches, and sometimes people just call our help line,” Johansen said.

Hospitals will provide the help line number to patients that may be victims of exploitation or trafficking. A nurse in an emergency room may ask a patient, “Hey, something’s going on. What’s going on? Do you want to talk to me a little bit about it?” And then the victim will be able to call the Safe Voices help line where the advocate will ask questions to help determine the victim’s specific situation.

Asking someone if they are being trafficked doesn’t provide real answers, Johansen said. “They’ll say, “Hey, I don’t even have a car. I can’t speed!’” But asking a possible victim if they ever had to trade sex for food, or trade sex just for a place to take a shower, or if they have been told their immigration documentation will be withheld if they don’t have sex, clearly identifies them as a victim.

Often, victims are afraid to reach out for help because of the real possibility of beatings and other abuse if their call for help is discovered by the trafficker. Contacting Safe Voices or other community groups from a phone away from the trafficker, or using a computer at a public place such as a library, are safe options for the victim to use in calling for help.

Johansen said she thinks that youth at risk that are specifically coming out of foster systems, and a lot of  LGBTQ youth that are homeless, are at greater risk of being trafficked. However, traffickers will create situations where none existed before in order to lure in victims of any age.

Safe Voices was created in 1977 to help battered women and children who did not have refuge, and opened it’s first emergency shelter in 1979 with funding help from the federal Comprehensive Education and Training Act. The organization changed it’s name to Safe Voices in 2010 to recognize that men are victims, too, and to have a name reflecting hope and empowerment, according to its website.

The 24/7 Helpline for Safe Voices is  1-800-559-2927. Online chat services area available during business hours Monday through Friday by going to the Safe Voices website:  safevoices.org  and selecting the Get Help tab at the top.

A central location to fight cancer

Construction begins on Cancer Care Center in Lewiston

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – Maine has the twelfth-highest rate of cancer deaths in the United States.

Having a central location for patients to find the services they need to fight cancer is vital in achieving the best results.

That’s the goal behind Central Maine Healthcare’s new Cancer Care Center that is in the early stages of construction on the campus of Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street in Lewiston.

Cancer was the leading cause of death in Maine in 2018, the latest year for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows national rankings. Maine recorded 3,275 deaths in 2018, or 162.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Heart disease was the next highest cause of death for Mainers that year.

The new Cancer Care Center is planned as a three-story structure that will have 52,000 square feet of space for offices, operating rooms, and recovery areas. It is designed to fit in with the look of existing buildings in the neighborhood.

An artist’s rendering of the new Central Maine Healthcare Cancer Care Center that is being built beside the main entrance to the Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street in Lewiston. With an expected completion in February 2022, the facility will have about 52,000 square feet of space and will be a central location for the treatment of cancer patients from throughout Maine. (Image courtesy of CMH)

Groundbreaking took place at the end of October, and construction vehicles were on the campus at Central Maine Medical Center the first week of November, removing the asphalt surface of the parking lot at the main entrance to the hospital facilities to make way for the new building.

 “We needed this facility to make sure that we are keeping with current technology and demand,” said Jeffrey Brickman, FACHE, the President and CEO of Central Maine Health, which is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving 400,000 people living in central, western, and mid-coast Maine. CMH’s hospital facilities include Central Maine Medical Center, Bridgton Hospital, and Rumford Hospital. In Topsham, CMH’s Topsham Care Center provides centralized care outside of a hospital setting.

Planning for the new cancer center began after Brickman’s arrival with CMH about four years ago.

Doctors from throughout the area have joined the Oncology Institute at CMMC to provide services to patients from throughout the southern and central Maine area.

Dr. Hector Tarraza, who joined CMH at the end of April as its new Chief of the Oncology Institute and Associate Chief of Surgery, said it’s estimated that over 8,000 people in Maine will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. “Over time, one in four Mainers will be faced with the diagnosis of cancer, so the numbers are staggering.”

 “It requires an extensive amount of resources to take care of so many people,” he said. The approach to treatment has changed over the years, and “The way we treat cancer now is no longer just one doctor, or two doctors. It’s a multi-disciplinary team of individuals with numerous expertise to be able to come together and provide a health plan that will best match the disease so that most can survive and live a healthy and fruitful life.”

“What we’re doing here at Central Maine Medical Center is to put together that multi-disciplinary team under one house,” Tarraza said. When the building is completed in February, 2022, patients will have one location for services that include  surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, precision medicine, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplants.

The single building is not the sole place for treatment, however, Terraza said. “We’re a healthcare system. It involves regional hospitals, such as Rumford and Bridgton. It involves care along the coastline in Topsham. It involves a tremendous amount of primary care facilities of doctors and nurse practitioner professionals who . . . need the resources and back up of cancer specialists when they are confronted with individuals in their practices who are diagnosed with cancer.”

Central Maine Health keys on the three basic elements of cancer treatment – screening for cancer, diagnosing cancer, and treating cancer, Terraza said. In addition, Central Maine Health works with primary care doctors for preventative care by “promoting good, healthy lifestyles.”

Androscoggin County has the highest rate of cancer in Maine, followed by Aroostook County, then Cumberland County. The primary cancer diagnoses are for lung cancers, followed by pancreatic cancer.

Patients have been traveling from northern Maine to Maine Medical Center for cancer treatment for many years, and CMH expects to provide care that is more comprehensive and closer to their homes with its new facility.

Patients who are being treated for cancer or recovering after treatment can find help in dealing with effects of the disease and treatment at the Dempsey Center, which has locations in Lewiston and South Portland. The mission of the Dempsey Center is to help cancer survivors.

Central Maine Healthcare and its oncology program have received diagnostic imaging accreditation from the American College of Radiology, along with a national accreditation program for breast centers from the American College of Surgeons, and a Women’s Choice Award as being Among America’s Best Hospitals for Cancer Care. CMH has been ranked as Grade A four times in two years by the Leapfrog Group, which rates hospitals exclusively on hospital safety, providing consumers with critical information on how likely they are to experience accidents, injuries, errors or harm while in the hospital.

Outsmart squirrels at the birdfeeder

From Coles Wild Bird Products

KENNSAW, GA – COVID-19 has caused us all to spend much more time at home, reconnecting with a welcomed resurgence of simple pleasures and fundamental pursuits, which were nearly lost in our frenzied day-to-day lives, prior to the pandemic.

Board games, puzzles and baking bread became the new norm and an interest in bird watching suddenly soared. Being homebound brought us outside and opened our eyes to a whole world of fascinating, beautiful birds. Sales of bird feed, feeders, nesting boxes and bird houses spiked as interest in backyard birds soared.

In addition to new birders, more than 52 million Americans already feed the birds-and watch them. Studies show that more than 80 percent of people feed birds to bring nature and its beauty to their own backyard.

The good news is birds don’t know we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, they’re doing what they’ve always done; building nests, migrating, laying eggs and searching food sources- the primary difference is more of us are watching them. The human world got quieter; and birds got heard!

Feeding the birds is not only enjoyable for any age group, it provides much needed stress relief for all who partake. A fascinating 2017 University of Exeter study, focused on nature’s impact on humans in suburban/urban areas, found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people see in an afternoon, at home. Turns out, the benefits of birdwatching come from seeing lots and lots of birds. Quantity not ‘quality’ is what soothes our souls. For millions working and schooling from home, this stress reduction was an unintended bonus to the basic delight of feeding our feathered friends.

To enjoy the many benefits of birding, attracting birds through bird feeding is essential. Birds, like people, are selective – even picky – when it comes to food. To attract the most birds to your feeder, buy the best seed. Many commercial feed mixes contain cheap filler seeds that most birds just don’t like. Birds sort through the undesirable mix to get to the “good stuff” – and leave the rest behind.

Opt for high quality feed that offer birds select, natural seed choices, specifically formulated just for them. Avoid brands that wash or coat seeds with chemicals and mineral oil to make seed look more appealing to humans.

 Yes, squirrels are an incessant problem at bird feeders. Newbies to bird feeding soon discovered what long-time birders know all too well: squirrels love bird feed too. Plus, squirrels are bigger and more aggressive than birds giving them an unfair advantage at the feeder.

 Love them or loathe them, most birders agree they don’t want squirrels damaging feeders and devouring seed meant for the birds. But, not to worry, Cole’s has you covered. Using the Science of Taste Aversion, Cole’s offers patented “hot and spicy” feed options infused with an exclusive Habanero chili pepper and Safflower oil, like  Cole’s “Hot Meats” and “Hot Meats” Suet cakes that birds find delicious but squirrels dislike.  Another option, “Blazing Hot Blend” is a traditional mix of highly desired seeds enhanced with super-hot and spicy food grade habanero chilies, designed to attract a maximum variety of birds.

Finally, if you just can’t stand bushy-tailed pests at your feeder, consider a solution that sends them packing safely and effectively. Cole’s Flaming Squirrel Sauce is a nutritional birdseed supplement that contains all natural, 100% food grade ingredients with a super-hot and spicy flavor, that squirrels dislike. It tastes hot to mammals, (squirrels!) but birds’ taste receptors don’t detect the heat and they love the spicy taste.

Add this liquid chili pepper formula to bird feed to greatly reduce squirrel visits to the feeder.

Cole’s hot and spicy products are safe, effective and a humane, natural way to feed the birds, not the squirrels. As a matter of fact, Cornell University scientists tested the technology and found it highly effective in reducing the number of squirrel visits at the feeder. 

 While we’re navigating through these uncertain times, look to the birds for delight, solace, and stress relief.  Once you start feeding the birds, you’ll find it’s hard to stop- Plus with the right feed and fewer squirrels, there’ll be a bounty of birds in your backyard for your benefit and enjoyment.

Visit https://bit.ly/38kCSap for more information.

CMCC Nursing Program Reaccredited

Nursing students at work in the patient simulation lab at Central Maine Community College. The nursing program at the college recently earned reaccreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. (Photo courtesy of CMCC)

From CMCC

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) in September granted continuing accreditation through 2028 to the associate degree in nursing program at Central Maine Community College (CMCC).

The purpose of the ACEN is to provide specialized accreditation for all levels of nursing education and transition-to-practice programs located in the United States, U.S. Territories, and internationally. The monitoring of certificate, diploma, and degree offerings is tied closely to state examination and licensing rules and to the oversight of preparation for work in the profession.

Approximately 100 students are enrolled in the Nursing program at CMCC, which is also approved by the Maine State Board of Nursing. The program blends general education and nursing courses, hands-on instruction in simulation labs, and faculty-led clinical rotations at local healthcare affiliates. Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX) for licensure as a registered nurse.

Democrats and Republicans appoint leaders to legislature

From Maine Legislature

AUGUSTA — On Thursday, the Maine Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously re-elected Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, and Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, to serve in leadership roles for the 130th Maine Legislature. 

Although Sen. Jackson’s candidacy for Senate President received unanimous support from the Senate Democratic Caucus, an official vote will be taken by the entire Senate on Dec. 2 when the Legislature convenes for swearing-in day.

“Now, more than ever, Maine people are counting on us to help them survive this pandemic, rebuild our economy and rebuild their lives. It’s a daunting task but I’ve never been known to back down from a challenge or give up fighting for what’s right whether it’s standing up for the basic dignity of Maine workers, taking on ‘Big Pharma’ or delivering on property tax relief,” said Sen. Jackson. “I know Mainers are worried right now but the one thing they shouldn’t worry about or whether or not their elected officials have their backs. It’s time to put the partisan rancor and ugliness of the election behind us, heal old wounds and come together not as Democrats, Republicans and Independents but as members of the 130th Maine Legislature to rebuild our state.”

Sen. Jackson is a fifth-generation logger from Allagash, who entered the Legislature as a champion for Maine workers and families. He has sponsored legislation to give loggers and wood haulers a fair shake and to create good-paying jobs in Aroostook County. Throughout his tenure, he has emerged as a fierce advocate for health care, spearheading legislation to protect Mainers with preexisting conditions, rein in the cost of prescription drug prices, fund rural hospital and ambulance services, and hold “Big Pharma” accountable. He was named a 2019 Rx Price Fighter by AARP and has been recognized by the Maine Ambulance Association for his steadfast support of rural ambulance services. 

“Mainers are putting their faith and trust in us during an unprecedented time, and we must do all we can to rise to this challenge,” said Sen. Libby. “Maine’s legislators have our work cut out for us, but I know my colleagues and I are up to the task. Mainers have never been afraid of hard work, and they expect the same from their elected leaders. I’m dedicated to working collaboratively to help Maine face our current crises head-on and chart a path to economic recovery.”

Sen. Libby has represented Maine’s second-largest city for eight years in the Maine Legislature, for two years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Maine Senate. Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, he has focused his efforts on improving public education, investing in career and technical education, supporting community redevelopment, and advocating for student debt relief. He also has pushed for policies that promote responsible spending and good government. Previously, Sen. Libby has served on the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and Taxation Committee.

“Maine is facing extraordinary challenges, and the legislative session ahead of us will be unlike any other. But I have no doubt that our core values of respect, hard work and frugality will continue to see us through,” said Sen. Vitelli. “Mainers are looking to their newly elected leaders to do the hard work that will get our state back on its feet. The policies and investments Maine lawmakers set up in the last two years have positioned us to weather this storm better than many other states. I have every confidence that Maine will continue to lead the way.”

Sen. Vitelli has dedicated her life to supporting Maine workers and small businesses, promoting entrepreneurship and connecting Mainers with quality, good-paying jobs. She recently retired after 38 years with New Ventures Maine, a statewide organization that helps Maine people achieve their career, financial, and small business goals. In 2006, the Maine Small Business Administration presented Sen. Vitelli with the McGillicuddy Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence for her work with New Ventures. She is also a 1995 inductee into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame and a 1986 co-recipient of the Maine Small Business Administrations’ Women’s Business Advocate of the Year Award. In the Maine Legislature, she has become a staunch advocate for prescription drug price transparency, workforce training, reliable high-speed internet access, energy independence, and retirement savings accounts.

The leadership team was selected by the incoming Maine Senate Democratic Caucus. Lawmakers will be sworn in for the 130th Maine Legislature on Dec. 2.

HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS

The Maine House Republican caucus re-elected Rep. Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford) to serve as their leader during a meeting last week in Augusta.Rep. Joel Stetkis (R-Canaan) was elected Assistant Republican Leader.

Dillingham’s re-election comes after a strong showing by Maine House Republicans in a difficult election year. Maine House Republicans gained 11 seats, and defeated 7 incumbents without losing a single incumbent.

“I am grateful to receive the support of House Republicans following our strong showing on election day,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “By sending eleven more Republicans to Augusta, voters sent a strong message that they expect House Republicans to be included in decisions that affect their lives. The infusion of new energy and expertise they bring to our caucus will be particularly helpful as we try to address the $1.4 billion revenue shortfall projected over the next three years.”

Newly elected Assistant Republican Leader Joel Stetkis praised the team effort that led to last week’s election results. “House Republicans are unified in their desire to play a larger role in the policies and decisions governing Mainers,” said Stetkis. “Mainers from all walks of life and occupations can expect us to fight for them and to have their voices heard.” 

Veterans lead by example

By Senator Ned Claxton

On Nov. 11, the nation paused to honor Veterans Day.

Originally known as Armistice Day, this holiday marked the end of World War I, which caused the deaths of more than 116,000 American service members.

When President Woodrow Wilson designated the first remembrance of Armistice Day in 1919, he said: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Today, we recognize Nov. 11 as a day to honor the sacrifices and contributions of all veterans, while they serve in our military and when they come home to our communities.

The L-A area is fortunate to have several American Legion and VFW posts. These posts serve as vital meeting places for veterans and the community at-large. The VFW and Legion do critical work providing services for veterans, advocating for their needs and making sure they have the support services they need.

In turn, their members also take care of the communities they call home. Members of our local Legion and VFW posts continue to be active in our communities, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legion Post 153 has been serving delicious, hot meals to help with fundraising. VFW Post 1603 hosted its seventh annual Rib-Off cooking competition on Saturday, Nov. 7.

Nationally, VFW, Legion and Auxiliary members volunteer millions of hours in their communities, and raise millions of dollars for college scholarships, emergency funds, VA hospitals and more. 

I’m constantly inspired by our local veterans. These brave men and women have given so much for our country, and when they return home, they continue to give of themselves to help their neighbors. These everyday acts of selflessness and dedication should serve as an example for all of us.

What can seem like small things — volunteering a few hours at a food pantry or blood drive, donating some money we’d normally spend on a lunch out to a charity or scholarship fund, taking the time to reach out to someone who might be having a hard time — contribute overall to, as President Wilson put it, peace and justice. 

There’s an old adage: Think global, but act local. The millions of hours of volunteering and incredible fundraising efforts of veterans groups don’t happen all at once. They’re the result of the efforts of individuals making small, local decisions to help each other — but look at the incredible good it all builds up to.

On this Veterans Day, and the days to come, I hope you look around for opportunities for small acts of kindness. And if you have the opportunity, remember to thank a veteran for their service to our country and our communities. 

As always, if you have any concerns or would like help connecting with resources or ways to give back, I’m here for you. You can reach me by email at Ned.Claxton@legislature.maine.gov, or call me at 207-287-1515.

Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 20, which includes Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland.

CMHC breaks ground for new Cancer Care Center

Facility will expand access to enhanced services

Central Maine Healthcare broke ground last Thursday for its new Cancer Care Center that consolidates cutting-edge oncology services in a convenient location for the region. Construction on the 52,000-square-foot facility on the Central Maine Medical Center campus in Lewiston was to begin this week and is expected to be completed in February 2020. Helping with groundbreaking are Jeffrey L. Brickman, FACHE, president and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare, left; U.S. Senator Susan Collins; Deborah Dunlap Avasthi, chair of Central Maine Healthcare Board of Directors; Steven G. Littleson, DBA, FACHE, president of Central Maine Medical Center; Hector Tarraza, MD, Central Maine Healthcare system chief of oncology and associate chief of surgical care; and Nicholette Erickson, MD. (Photo courtesy of CMH)

From CMHC

LEWISTON – Central Maine Healthcare broke ground last week for its new Cancer Care Center that consolidates cutting-edge oncology services in a convenient location for the region.

“It’s a momentous day for Central Maine Healthcare and the communities we serve. Patients will have increased access to high-quality care supported by the latest technology – all close to where they live, work, play and pray,” said Jeffrey L. Brickman, FACHE, president and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare. “It’s part of our vision to change the face of healthcare in Maine.”

Healthcare professionals, elected officials and community leaders joined Central Maine Healthcare to celebrate the occasion. The masked, socially distanced groundbreaking ceremony took place at the Central Maine Medical Center campus in Lewiston, where the Cancer Care Center will be built.

Construction on the $33.2 million project was to begin this week and is expected to be completed in February 2022. One of the goals of the ambitious project is consolidating oncology services in an accessible, centralized location so patients do not have to make their way to different parts of the Lewiston hospital campus for their care.

The need for expanded and enhanced cancer care is great, said Central Maine Medical Center President Steven G. Littleson, DBA, FACHE. He noted that the incidence of cancer in Maine has increased, and Androscoggin County has one of the highest occurrences of cancer in the state.

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Maine and our state has the 12th-highest rate of cancer mortality,” Littleson said. “Our objective with this awesome new facility is to put a serious dent in those numbers.”

The new two-story, 52,000-square-foot Cancer Care Center will house the Central Maine Cancer Institute, which will provide multispecialty, team-based care. The facility will also house new equipment, including new linear accelerators critical for radiation therapy.

Hector Tarraza, MD, CMH’s system chief of oncology and associate chief of surgical care, spoke of the staff who will care for the patients at the Cancer Care Center.

“Doctors, nurses, staff members, social workers, pharmacists – a team truly dedicated to caring for these individuals. One of the nicest things that I know about the staff is that every single one of them will treat them with their heart,” he said. “They’re going to provide understanding and kindness and caring and empathy throughout their entire journey as they are treated.”

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, delivered remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the center. 

“I doubt that there is anyone here today whose life has not been affected by cancer, either personally or in a loved one.  Against this scourge that causes so much pain and suffering, so much fear and uncertainty, and so much heartbreak, CMH fights back with skill, technology, dedication, and compassion,” said Senator Collins.  “By consolidating oncology services that will be supported by state-of-the-art equipment, patients will have convenient access to the highest quality care close to home.  The CMH Cancer Care Center will enhance the outstanding multispecialty, team-based care CMH provides.”

 With more than 8,000 new diagnoses each year, cancer incidence in Maine is above the national average.  By consolidating all oncology services at CMH, the new center will allow patients to receive care without having to travel to other care providers, saving the community nearly $1 million annually in travel costs and preventing patients from having to drive more than 35,000 hours each year.

 State regulators gave the final approval to the project in April.

 Senator Collins has been a longstanding champion for greater investments in biomedical research, oncology services, and telehealth infrastructure.  Through the CARES Act, she has helped secure more than $490 million in COVID-19 relief for Maine health care providers, including $33 million for the CMH hospital system.  In addition, Senator Collins successfully advocated for a $2.6 billion increase for the NIH in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations package.

Services at the new center will include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, precision medicine, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplants.


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