A unique job fair Friday in Portland, Maine, brought employers in the behavioral health field together with people in substance abuse recovery.
The Behavioral Health Career and Education Fair at the University of Southern Maine had a special focus on recruiting people in recovery, reaching out to organizations such as the Young People in Recovery for participants. Put on by the AdCare Educational Institute and Maine's Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, the goal was to teach people about the diverse job opportunities in behavioral health.
"It's not a traditional job fair," said organizer Anna Black, who works as a Project Director at the Maine Youth Treatment Recovery Enhancement Program.
"We want people to be cognizant of the fact that the behavioral health field is often filled with people who have lived experience," said Black, "and that's a great thing."
One of the employers offering internship opportunities at the fair was Day One, a nonprofit that offers mental health and substance abuse treatment services to adolescents.
"We really value a person's life story, and the challenges that they have overcome, so they can provide hope to the ones that we're serving," said Caroline Raymond, Clinical Director of Residential Services at Day One.
She said it's the people who have lived experiences that can inspire Day One's clients. People like Ross Hicks.
"Recovery is probably one of the biggest hurdles I've ever had to surmount," said Hicks. "If I can do that, I can do anything. Imagine what I can do for someone's business."
Hicks is finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Southern Maine, and works as the USM Student Recovery Liaison.
He said finding a job can be one of the most important steps in recovery, but it's hard to find employers willing to look past a drug conviction or troubled past.
"There's this stigma that people who are addicts -- we're immoral, bad people," said Hicks. "We're not bad people."
Employers at the Behavioral Health Job Fair say they're not only good people, but they're great employees.
"People with lived experience, who have been to recovery, who have changed their life, have a lot to offer," said Black.