378 Deaths yet Maine is cutting addiction services and access

For the third straight year, overdose deaths in Maine have increased dramatically. An average of more than one death per day. Our governor and legislature have been quiet of late – following a boisterous 2016 in which nearly every politician wanted to be in front of a camera pledging to find solutions to our opiate epidemic.

The simple truth is that the issue has been moved to the back burner and everything we’re poised to do at the state level are REDUCING access to needed medical and treatment services.

Here’s what’s on tap in the coming months in Augusta:

  • The legislature is poised to cut reimbursement rates for services provided by Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (while increasing funding for mental health clinicians)
  • LePage is seeking to reduce eligibility for Maine Care by as many as 19,000 Mainers (as it stands, a high percentage of those with addictions cannot get services of any kind as they are uninsured
  • After Mayhew argued vehemently in 2016 that Mainers who live with severe mental illness (many of whom have co-occurring substance use disorders) are underserved – less than a year later, the legislature is poised to cut Community Integration Services (basic life need fulfillment) by over 23% (a rate at which no agency can afford to operate at).

Problems perpetuated in our state:

  • Funds for increasing recovery centers in Maine approved in March of 2016 remain in state coffers with no plan for development.
  • Despite the fact that we’re sending folks out of state daily to detox, no initiatives for increasing medically supervised withdrawals are forthcoming.
  • Maine remains the only state in the US that limits Medicaid access to Methadone & Suboxone

How can we in good conscience claim to be concerned about overdose deaths and the proliferation of heroin and fentanyl in Maine while reducing access to those who seek freedom from addiction?

It’s time to raise our voices and let our legislators know that continuing to reduce access and availability to services is unacceptable. Maine has 378 families grieving. How many shall we of our neighbors will we send condolences to by 2018?

Please call your legislators today. Tell them simply that you:

  • Oppose cuts to Maine Care eligibility
  • Oppose cuts to Maine Care services defined in the most recent rate study
  • Demand medically supervised withdrawal services be increased in our state
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.