SOS Recovery celebrates ‘invaluable’ Rochester expansion

ROCHESTER — For Elizabeth Atwood, it was hard not to get emotional Thursday during the grand reopening celebration of SOS Recovery Community Organization’s newly expanded Rochester Community Recovery Center.

A year and a half ago, SOS was “scraping by” in Rochester on a $5,000 budget while the region’s recovery supports were incredibly limited, according to Atwood. While the fight is far from over today, Atwood said packed rooms like the one she stood in front of Thursday served as a reminder for how united every corner of Strafford County has become in the effort to more fully help all people with substance use disorders.

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Atwood, the center’s capacity building specialist. “I think it’s an honor to be a part of something as amazing as this and to watch SOS just blow up. I think we’re going to go to some pretty great places.”

Over 80 people attended the grand reopening of SOS’s center, which is located at 63 South Main St. within First Church Congregational. Attendees represented a bevy of Strafford County recovery support providers, social service agencies, local residents, city officials and political leaders who have played key roles in stemming the opioid crisis.

The church recently allowed SOS to expand its space with the building from 500 to 2,000 square feet. With that expansion, SOS has extended its hours and it’ll be able to serve more individuals as it continues its mission to reduce stigma and harm associated with substance misuse, according to SOS Director John Burns.

Burns said the partnership with the church has been “invaluable,” as SOS wouldn’t have been able to expand that greatly in a commercial environment. He said having 2,000 square feet of space is “like gold” in the recovery community, and he believes it’ll go a long way in building the human connections and safe environment that is vital to individuals in all stages of recovery.

“This world can be very lonely and isolated for those of us when we’re suffering and for family members,” said Burns. “SOS is about getting rid of that isolation and providing that peer support and wrapping our arms around people and giving them the connection and the love they deserve so they can live a loving and fulfilling life.”

While progress is being made at the federal level, the $3.3 billion recently set aside by President Donald Trump’s administration to fund recovery supports is a drop in the bucket, according to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., one of several political leaders present Thursday.

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