BATH — You may not know about the Midcoast Community Alliance, but you should. In the short year of its existence, the coalition has woven together a tight fabric of support and services in the name of reducing suicide (in particular, youth suicide) and its stigma in our communities. The coalition’s branches are reaching into other critical support services, such as youth homelessness and mental health.

In 2016, Bath experienced a youth suicide that rocked the community; the young man was much loved and well known.

Jamie Dorr, of Bath, was inspired to take on the enormous task of building the network of Midcoast Community Alliance “because I am tired of losing people to suicide, and feeling so helpless watching families go through such devastation. I’ve known some of the young people that we have lost. I could no longer sit by and wait for it to happen again.”

New CDC data looking at suicide rates from 1975 to 2015 shows that it hit a 40-year high for teen girls in 2015. Another recent study found that hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts and actions among children and teens doubled from 2008 to 2015.

Dorr is president of the Friends of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. She is also a mother to two teen boys, a “foster” mother, of sorts, to two additional teens, and a seven-year mentor to two teens through Big Brothers Big Sisters. She and her husband Mike also welcome a Fresh Air Fund student into their home each summer from the Bronx in New York City, and she’s the proprietor of her own web design and marketing business.

Does she sleep much? Probably not.

She met with Greg Marley of NAMI Maine, who helped her figure out the process of starting small, and letting the group grow naturally. “I didn’t want my community to go through this ever again. More importantly, I don’t want any young person, teenager, or adult to feel so hopeless and so alone that they take their own life. I was compelled to bring our community together and begin advocating for those who are hurting … To ensure that they know that there is hope, there is a way out, and that there are many people who want to walk, hand-in-hand, with them to find that help and that hope.”

In organizing opportunities for grief support at the Bath Skatepark last summer, Dorr pulled in various members of the community from places like Bath Parks and Recreation Department, Bath Area Family YMCA, Regional School Unit 1, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine.

“We began to discuss what we were facing as a community, where there was a lack of resources,” Dorr said. “We soon brought in local law enforcement, and soon Mid Coast Hospital got involved, along with United Way, Sweetser, Maine Behavioral Health, faith-based organizations, MSAD 75 and others. Today, we have over 25 organizations involved, roughly 70 people who are connected in some way to helping MCA with its mission.”

The group began digging into statistics and looking closely at what they were up against. A Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey provided a great deal of information. “We started to look at how many community members we’ve lost to suicide – not only youth, but adults, too. With the help of a facilitator brought in by RSU 1, we were able to create our mission and vision by the fall of 2016, which helped us figure out where we were going,” Dorr said.

In one year, MCA has won three awards: Volunteer of the Year from the Bath Area Family Y; Community Builder award from the United Way of Mid Coast Maine; and the Caring About Lives award from the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Department of Health and Human Services.

MCA produced a very well attended call to action community forum in the spring, organized a “you matter” early morning greeting event at Morse High School, and has worked with Mid Coast Hospital and Sweetser in arranging both youth and adult mental health training events.

“I am just amazed at what Jamie has accomplished with this alliance in such a short time,” Bath Police Chief Mike Field said. “She has done remarkable work. This has grown to be a very diverse group, with a number of important stakeholders involved. I believe that it has brought the issue of suicide to the forefront, and has lessened the stigma of talking about it, and helped us see what we can do to help, direct, and offer resources to our communities.”

At the moment, Dorr and MCA are focusing on launching a local, back-to-school support program called “Set for Success,” which has seen great success in Boothbay; hosting a screening of the film “Resilience,” about adverse childhood experiences and their effects; and strengthening support services via a “wraparound” committee for homeless Midcoast teens.

MCA member Andy Sokoloff, grief and bereavement services coordinator at CHANS in Brunswick, has announced the launch of a new support group for suicide survivors in Bath beginning in September.

News of MCA’s work is getting out. Dorr says she is contacted regularly by people looking for help and information, and she’s able to steer them in the right direction. And it seems MCA’s efforts are reaching beyond the Midcoast: Chief Field was contacted by a Richmond High School student last spring, advocating for greater mental health awareness at her school. Dorr and Field met with the student and some faculty members, and have connected them with NAMI Maine and other organizations.

“My hope is that if anyone, young or old, is feeling depressed to a point where they may want to hurt themselves, that they can receive the help they need,” Chief Field said. “I believe that this alliance is continuing to close the gap and set up a network where that can happen.”

Dorr is equally optimistic about the future. “As you can see, there is a great deal in the works, with many different agencies learning together and then working together to find new solutions to ensure our youth are supported, connected, happy, and healthy,” she said. “It’s our ultimate goal.”

Contact MCA for a copy of its resources booklet, or find out about events and services by visiting www.mcamaine.org or calling Jamie Dorr at 443-6856. Midcoast Community Alliance is also on Facebook.