Central Maine substance abuse treatment networks will suffer with LePage proposed budget

By Ramona du Houx - March 24th, 2011 · 

Waterville Representatives Henry Beck and Tom Longstaff raised concerns about Gov. Lepage’s budget cuts to Waterville based substance abuse clinics after meeting with the medical staff and administrators Monday.

“After learning more about the impact of the cuts, I’m concerned about the domino effect on costs to the community,” said Rep. Beck. “We know that our communities are safer and we spend less money on services when people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction are rehabilitated and off the streets.”

The total economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Maine in 2010 is estimated at $1,180 million or $907 for every resident in Maine.

Gov. LePage’s budget proposes eliminating $4.4 million from the Office of Substance Abuse budget, primarily for treatment and prevention programs such as HealthReach Networks, which are administered in Waterville. Under LePage’s proposal, treatment dollars are cut by $3,961,520 and funding for prevention is cut by $388,424.

The state budget cuts to the substance abuse program also result in cuts to matching federal funding streams, which require the state to fund a percentage of substance abuse programs in order to qualify for federal grants.

The result is a total loss to substance abuse programs of $6 million and the loss of 180 jobs of those working to prevent substance abuse across the state of Maine, according to the HealthReach Network.

“We are seeing an alarming trend,” said Rep. Tom Longstaff. “These shortsighted cuts will lead to more local costs with no effort to actually treat the root of the problem. Cutting programs to treat drug addiction doesn’t stop drug abuse, it only causes more stress on local services, from public safety to hospital emergency care.”

Studies show that every dollar spent on treatment can reduce future burden costs by $12 or more in reduced drug related crime, criminal justice and health care costs.

According to data from the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, In Maine treatment of substance abuse results in:

• 80 percent reduction in arrests
• 95 percent reduction in illicit substance use
• 64 percent decrease in homelessness
• 29 percent increase in family reunification
• 40-60 percent crime rate reduction
• 40 percent employment prospect increase

“We’ve seen that treatment leads to reductions in health and public safety cost, health care utilization savings, improved workplace development and jobs retention, as well as Medicaid savings,” said Emilie van Eeghen, who serves as Vice President of Behavioral Health Services for the HealthReach Network. “Our communities can’t afford to risk the success we’ve seen from these programs.”