STATE OF AFFAIRS: Maine Passes $3.7 Million Addiction Bill
January 21st, 2016 | By Brittany Meadows
Maine Passes $3.7 Million Addiction Bill
Bipartisan Effort Grows to Fight Epidemic
AUGUSTA, Maine – Governor Paul LePage wasted no time signing a bill unanimously passed by the state House and Senate Tuesday, in response to Maine’s growing number of overdoses and lack of treatment options.
“I’m pleased the House and Senate incorporated the common-sense recommendations of the minority report,” said Governor LePage. “I had expressed concerns about funding sources and the grant-making authority, but I thank the legislative leadership for their willingness to broker changes that both the administration and the legislature could support. To be clear, this bill is just the first step in a process that needs a much more comprehensive approach.”
LePage signed the bill, which includes $1.2 million for 10 new positions at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and $2.5 million for addiction treatment, just hours after it was passed. The MDEA has a growing need for agents with the number of heroin traffickers making their way in and out of the state to supply the demand for it.
The bill also sets aside nearly $1 million for a new drug detox center in the state, and around $800,000 to fund treatment for those who don’t have insurance. But where will the money come from?
Reserves from the Gambling Control Board will fund $781,000 for the extra MDEA agents, and $2.5 million will be funded from the Medical Uses of Marijuana Fund, which collects fees from marijuana dispensaries in the state.
In a display of bipartisanship and unity, not a single member of the Senate or the House voted no on the bill, brought forth by Senator Michael Thibodeau (R-Maine) and Representative Mark Eves (D-Maine).
“If we had failed, that would have sent a much different message,” Senator Thibodeau told the Portland Press Herald. “I’m incredibly proud of this institution and each and every one of you for working on this.”
“Defying the skeptics,” said Representative Eves. “I want to thank Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau for sponsoring this important bipartisan legislation to begin addressing the drug crisis in our state. The legislature unanimously passed it today. Our work continues, together.”
Critics of the bill say it’s a paltry amount of money in comparison to Maine’s drug problem, and no money was set aside for methadone, buprenorphine assisted treatment. A report by Stateline showed that roughly ⅔ of our nation’s medical clinics do not offer addiction treatment, insurance often doesn’t cover it. Only about ⅕ of the people who could benefit from medically-assisted treatment can benefit from it.
Maine had over 208 overdose deaths in 2014, and, as of September of 2015, had 174, putting it on track to surpass that number. Maine lost 71 people to heroin in the first 3 quarters of last year.
We applaud Maine for their bipartisan efforts, and for recognizing the need in their state. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. Until emergency legislation is passed on a federal level to hold insurance companies accountable and meet the needs to combat a constantly growing epidemic, our country is still waiting all too patiently while those around us fight for their life.