Babies Born Addicted & Governor LePage’s Quest for Solutions

Governor LePage,

Your recent radio address seems to indicate that new, innovative, and exciting solutions can be found to a social epidemic of babies born of drug addicted mothers. Your position is akin to the conversations my colleagues and I have with people in early Recovery from addiction. Many of them seek magical, instantaneous relief and painless remedies.

Here’s the truth – overcoming addiction sucks. It hurts. It’s horrible. It’s one of the hardest things a human being can do and it starts with accountability, responsibility, and a willingness to claw your way out of hell.

Systemic responses under your administration have been to consistently erode the availability of addiction treatment (reducing Maine Care entitlement), the duration for which services (limiting approved length and frequency of treatment) and to perpetuate the stigma of receiving “welfare” (you consistently refer to Maine Care with deliberately stigmatizing language).

Here’s the biggest issue I see – we perpetuate judgment and stigma socially and systemically to those who live with the disease of addiction. As difficult as it is for a person to admit their addiction and seek help, it is tenfold more shameful for a pregnant woman to do so. Who amongst us will not judge her?

Only those of us who understand addiction.

In your quest for answers to solving the problems caused by addiction, Governor, how many active addicts have you consulted? How many in early Recovery? How many with long term Recovery?

If I want to learn how widgets are made, I don’t speak to the CEO of the widget company. I speak to the people who make the damned widgets.

I get it. We’re broke and can’t afford widgets.

 I applaud that you demand cost effectiveness. I hate how you demand it. You shame with your use of language. Let’s have some hard conversations about meaningful prevention and harm reduction models that make folks uncomfortable to discuss. It’s time to acknowledge that political, religious, health, and fiscal needs and desired outcomes conflict. It’s time to table our squeamishness about sex, drugs, poverty, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, homelessness, violent crimes and a host of other social problems in our state and focus on solutions.

It’s time to become more pragmatic and less ideological. Prevention works but it’s unpopular. We’re somehow still unable to provide decent sex education in schools. We’re unwilling to promote widespread distribution of condoms, better access and affordability of birth control, better access, less cost (and less stigma) to abortion.

It’s time to look at the effectiveness of Suboxone and Subutex and determine how it can be made more readily available and coupled with mandatory treatment to provide better outcomes. It’s time to look long and hard at the unmet needs of the homeless in Maine and to consider how this longstanding problem contributes to most other social problems in Maine. It’s time to explore a lot of VIABLE options.

Most of all, Governor, it’s time to consult the real experts. Not those of us who make our living within the bureaucracy, not those of us providing professional services, but rather those who have the most experience and intimate understanding.

For crying out loud, talk to the people who LIVE this shit.

Then get yourself to some Open meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous and then hit up Al Anon & Nar Anon. Common sense answers and a lot of wisdom from people who know.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.