How LePage and Mayhew are Perpetuating the Opiate Epidemic

Following Governor LePage’s directives, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is seeking to eliminate mental health programs statewide – some outright, others through crippling  funding reductions. This is happening at the same time our leaders claim to be developing solutions to Maine’s opiate epidemic.

Seeking solutions to our opiate epidemic while decimating mental health services is like saying we’ll right the ship by getting rid of the life boats.

There are countless aspects of addiction that are difficult to understand. Here’s a vital, if simplified piece: There is no such thing as an active addict who does not meet criteria for multiple forms of significant mental illness.

Most of us were tortured long before we drank and drugged. Our use was an unhealthy means to cope with mental illness.

There are others of us who were not mentally ill before addiction set in. Our mental health is one of countless things addiction stripped away from us.

Here’s the hard part: With relatively few exceptions, until we attain long term recovery, it’s almost impossible to accurately diagnose us.

Addiction blurs every line, including psychiatric findings.

Recovery from addiction is one of the hardest things a human being can do. It’s nothing short of heroism, born of desperation and abject suffering. A person who seeks recovery is deserving of every possible resource.

Yet our leaders are eliminating safety nets. They seek to remove the availability of front line professionals who help us navigate and coordinate the countless systems we must utilize and prevail within.

It’s time to recognize that what LePage and Mayhew perpetrate is not merely political. It’s not just incompetence from folks who understand nothing about mental health or addiction. It’s deliberate, malicious, and it’s not cost effective.

It can only be understood as social Darwinism and it sure as hell is counter productive to reducing addiction in Maine.

The proposed eliminations of services and rate reductions to Section 17 of Maine Care will further cripple professional support for addiction recovery and will leave folks who are profoundly mentally ill without vital community support.

It will increase long term costs and dramatically raise rates of homelessness. It ill further overburden emergency rooms. It will increase incarceration rates across our state. It will not save a single life from the throes of addiction, if anything, LePage and Mayhew’s plans will lead to completely avoidable deaths.

Please contact your state representatives and senators and demand that changes to Section 17 and rate reductions not be allowed to stand. There are countless ways we can support addiction recovery. Recognizing that it’s intricately convoluted with mental health is one of them.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.