Entries Filed in 'Public Safety'

Portland, Maine makes Baxter Boulevard a car-free oasis on Sundays from May 4 – November 9

April 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Public Safety

Maine's Portland City Hall during the holidays,  photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s Portland City Hall during the holidays, photo by Ramona du Houx

The City of Portland and its partners today announced that it is launching Sundays on the Boulevard starting May 4, 2014. Baxter Boulevard, with one of the best views in Portland, will be transformed into an urban oasis for bike riding, running, walking, skateboarding and other recreational activities. The road will be closed to cars on Sundays from May 4 through November 9, 9:00 AM – 4:00PM, from Vannah Ave to Payson Park.

“We hope to capitalize on the momentum that was created when the Boulevard was closed last year to cars during our public works project,” said Michael Bobinsky, Portland’s Director of Public Services. “People really took advantage of the roadway during this time and enjoyed it as a recreational space. This is just a formal extension of that.”

The impetus for Sundays on the Boulevard follows the City’s public works project last year that kept the Boulevard closed to cars for eight months. The program is part of a growing number of open street projects, in which streets are closed temporarily to auto traffic so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and socializing. There are more than 100 documented initiatives across North America, according to the Open Streets Project.

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Rep. Fowle’s Maine veterans court bill heads to governor’s desk

April 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Issue 40, Public Safety

The Maine Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill to support and expand Kennebec County’s successful Veterans Treatment Court program. With unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate, the measure now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

The Veterans Treatment Court currently operates in Kennebec County and is open to any newly returned veteran in the state but may be difficult to access for veterans living farther away. Rep. Lori Fowle, the bill’s primary sponsor, said her measure would provide a stable source of funding that would allow veterans courts to slowly expand to other parts of Maine.

“I want to thank lawmakers for these strong, bipartisan votes recognizing that we have to do more to help these veterans rebuild their lives,” said Fowle. “The Veteran’s Treatment Court is already achieving success, and this bill will ensure that success continues.”

The two-part bill would fund a part-time prosecutor to ensure that Kennebec County’s veterans court can continue on stable financial footing.

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Access to Narcan, a life saving drug, approved by lawmakers despite Maine Gov. LePage veto threat

April 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Health Care, Public Safety

Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

In a unanimous vote, the Senate gave initial approval to a measure to increase access to a proven life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naloxone also known by its brand name, Narcan, has reversed more than 10,000 overdoses between 1996 and 2010.

“I can tell you that most of the time, we are the first to arrive at the scene. Having a safe, accessible, and fast-acting antidote to a heroin overdose will undoubtedly save lives,” said Senator David Dutremble, who works as an emergency responder for the Biddeford Fire Department. “As a first-responder, I urge Governor LePage to once again reconsider his threat of a veto and instead help us help those who are struggling with addiction in our state.”

Under current law, paramedics may administer naloxone and advanced EMTs may do so only with approval from a hospital for each instance. The amended measure would allow law enforcement officers and firefighters to carry and administer naloxone if they have received appropriate medical training. The bill also allows individuals and family members of those in danger of overdosing to obtain a prescription for the drug.

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Task force to find funds to end student hunger becomes law without LePage’s signature

April 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles, Issue 40, Public Safety

A law to establish a task force aimed at ending student hunger became law on Wednesday without the signature of the governor.
The new law establishes a task force in Maine that would explore different ways to increase student access to food, including leveraging millions of dollars in federal funding available to provide school breakfast and lunch to students.

“Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative is thrilled,” said Amy Regan Gallant, Preble Street Advocacy Coordinator. “The Task Force will facilitate the expansion of school breakfast, lunch, after-school snack, summer meals, and the new community eligibility provision to reduce student hunger across the state. These critical programs are significantly underutilized, leaving $30 million in federal funds out of Maine’s schools.”

According to the USDA, Maine has the 3rd highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, up from 7th last year, with one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity. About 20 percent of children in Maine are food insecure, and USDA research has shown that households with children experience an increase in food insecurity during the summer.

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New Maine law to increase accountability for jails

April 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Civil Rights, Public Safety

In an unanimous vote, the Senate enacted a measure to reform Maine’s county jail system.

“With this bill, we will truly have a consolidated state and county jail system,” said Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, the sponsor of the bill. “We have finally given the Board of Corrections the authority to better manage our jails, including mental health and community services.”

The bill authorizes major financial reforms, guides county jail operations, and clarifies the management authority of the Board of Corrections (BOC), which was formed with the creation of the consolidated jail system in 2008.

The bill is the result of two years of work with stakeholders including sheriffs, county commissioners, and municipal officials. It includes a more systematic and controlled budget process that is streamlined and better able to predict cost increases, benchmarks for the unified system and increased accountability for individual jails, and a clear lines of authority and duties for the BOC, county officials, and the sheriff.

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Maine’s area agencies on aging launch Money Minders Program

April 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Healthy Lifestyles, Public Safety

Many of Maine’s older adults are living independently with strong networks of friends, are active in their communities and have trusted family members. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for all older Mainers and far too many have no one to help them when they need it. When the need involves managing money, this can leave older adults vulnerable and at risk of losing their independence.

“Many older adults need assistance managing their bills and checkbooks for a variety of reasons,” said Jessica Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. “Whether they have trouble physically writing checks, have never had to manage a checkbook or budget or want some protection against the barrage of frauds and scams aimed at them, Money Minders can offer them peace of mind.”

Thanks to a generous grant by the John T. Gorman Foundation, Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging have just launched a statewide program called Money Minders which is aimed at helping older adults maintain their independence and peace of mind. The Money Minders Program matches trained, supervised, bonded volunteers with adults 55 and older who need help establishing a monthly budget and ensuring that all bills get paid in a timely and accurate manner. The program is free for clients who meet low to moderate income and asset guidelines and other eligibility criteria.

In addition to helping people avoid frauds and scams, our volunteers help clients connect to other services they need as they age and offer much needed socialization to those who are isolated. In 2012, the Department of Justice estimated that 1 in 9 adults over 60 will be a victim of elder abuse and financial exploitation each year. Financial exploitation is the second most common form of elder abuse.

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Gov. LePage’s dangerous actions make bad national news for Maine

April 4th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Capitol news, Issue 40, News from Washington, Public Safety

Earlier this year, LePage was featured on  the front page of the Huffington Post with the headline “Gov To Addicts: Drop Dead” because of his opposition to a common-sense bill sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) that would expand access to naloxone to friends and family members of people who are at risk of opioid overdose.

Today U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud challenged Gov. Paul LePage for his opposition to expanding access to a life-saving drug called naloxone.

“It wasn’t Gov. LePage’s rough talk or outrageous claims that put him on the national news, it was his dangerous actions that are standing in the way of saving lives,” said Michaud. “Maine has a significant problem with drug addiction, and it harms not just the individuals who are addicted but also their families and communities.”

LePage was featured in a NBC nightly news story news story Thursday night for his opposition to expanding access to the drug. In the story, LePage said he opposed expanding access to naloxone to family and friends of people struggling with opioid addiction even though the drug can counter the effects of overdose and save lives.

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Bipartisan study would propose three options for health care in future in Maine

April 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Health Care, Public Safety

Maine's Capitol in Spring, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s Capitol in Spring, photo by Ramona du Houx

A bipartisan measure to study options for single-payor health care in Maine on Tuesday gained initial support in the Maine House by a vote of 91 to 52.

“We strongly believe that every Maine family should have access to a family doctor. Access to health care should not be determined by how much money you have in your bank account,” said bill sponsor Rep. Charlie Priest. “This bill will provide us with valuable information and options for the best way to craft a universal health care system in Maine.”

The resolve, LD 1345, calls for a study to recommend at least three design options for creating a universal system of health care in Maine. The study would be funded under the state’s federal State Innovation Model grant under the Affordable Care Act.

“The idea that anyone should have to choose between buying food or heating their home and going to see a doctor is just plain wrong,” said Rep. Paulette Beaudoin, who has been a strong advocate for single-payor health care for the past eight years. “Too many people remain uninsured and too many working people who are covered put too much of their income into health care. Health care is a right. Period.”

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Another major step to stem student hunger in Maine approved

March 27th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Public Safety

The Maine State Senate gave unanimous approval to a measure sponsored by Senate President Alfond to establish a task force aimed at ending student hunger. The Task Force will explore different ways to increase student access to food, including leveraging millions of dollars in federal funding available to provide school breakfast and lunch to students.

According to the USDA, Maine has the 3rd highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, up from 7th last year, with one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity. About 20 percent of children in Maine are food insecure, and USDA research has shown that households with children experience an increase in food insecurity during the summer.

“With thousands of children across Maine struggling with hunger every day, we must do everything we can to increase access to nutritious food for our students,” said Senate President Alfond. “This bill and the task force it creates will be a major step in addressing Maine’s student hunger crisis.”

According to the bill, L.D.1819, that approves the task force:

Whereas, in past years, Maine has underutilized up to $30,000,000 of federal funding that could have been used to provide meals to hungry students; and

Whereas,  food insecurity has proven to negatively impact student health and learning; and

Whereas,  the United States Department of Agriculture recently announced a nationwide expansion of its program known as the Community Eligibility Provision, which increases access to breakfast and lunch for all students in low-income areas

Last month, the Legislature overrode Governor LePage’s veto of a bill aimed at increasing student access to the summer food services program. This task force will support that law by working with eligible districts to connect with community partners to establish summer food programs.

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Maine passes new law to curb predatory lending

March 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Public Safety

A bill sponsored by Rep. Christine Powers, to thwart predatory online lenders has been signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage.

“With this new law, Maine is seizing an opportunity to stand up to those who try to take advantage of Maine people, particularly those who barely earn enough to get by,” said Powers. “Predatory online payday lending is a practice that ruins people’s lives, and it’s so common that the state receives complaints nearly every day.”

Powers’ bill, L.D. 1691, cracks down on unlicensed payday loans from online lenders. Under current law, these lenders are able to freely access borrowers’ bank accounts through U.S.-based middlemen who process electronic money transfers. Powers’ measure makes it illegal to process the electronic transactions that these unlicensed lenders use to access borrowers’ bank accounts.

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