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  • Veterans mental health pilot program begins in Maine

    Program created by Rep. Golden’s bill to increase services for veterans   

     By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services launched a new pilot program to provide mental health care and case management services to Maine veterans on Monday.  The program was created as part of a bill sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston. 

    “I am very glad this bill is already helping Maine’s veterans get the care they need,” Golden said. “When veterans needing care fall through the cracks of the VA system, states like ours need to step up and make sure that no one gets left behind.” 

    The program will be administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services. Care coordination and case management will be facilitated by Easter Seals Maine and Health Affiliates Maine.  

    The pilot program will be open to all veterans, free of charge, no matter their discharge or length of service. The term “veteran” includes:

    1.  Any person who has served in the United States Armed Forces (Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves) who needs mental health treatment or mental health navigation.
    2.  Any service member currently serving in the Armed Forces.

    The law, L.D. 1231, “An Act Regarding Mental Health Care for Maine Veterans”, was passed by the Legislature last summer. In addition to setting up this pilot program to provide needed services, this law will gather data on mental health admissions to determine if the person seeking help is a veteran and whether they qualify for veteran’s services.

    There is currently no inpatient mental health care in Maine specifically for veterans. Those requiring care through the VA are sent out of state for treatment.

    "It's unacceptable that we don't have long-term inpatient mental health care options for veterans in Maine," said Golden. "We need to push the VA to fix this so that our veterans don't have to go out of state for the care they need."

    Golden is a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where he served as an Infantry Assaultman. 

    “I am so pleased that the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and the Department of Health and Human Services have moved so quickly to launch this program,” said Golden. “I’m confident the services they provide under this project will make a big difference for a lot of veterans, and hopefully move the federal government to do more for Maine veterans.” 

    For more information, contact Easter Seals Maine at 207-828-0754, Health Affiliates Maine at 333-3278, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services at 287-3707 or the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services at 430-6035.  

    Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He's also running for Congress in Maine's 2nd District.

  • Congresswoman Chellie Pingree speaks out against federal farm bill

     

    I’ve always been optimistic about the farm bill. I felt very fortunate to work on the last farm bill with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, supporting programs that I believe make a difference. As legislation goes, the farm bill has a track record of breaking down party lines and cultivating collaboration.

    But now, the farm bill has become the latest partisan battle, following in the steps of healthcare and tax reform. The 641-page farm bill draft was written by Republicans behind closed doors, and they’re hoping it passes quickly before anyone even has time to read it. The draft was released last Thursday and will be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee today, less than a week later.

    If the clandestine drafting process wasn’t disappointing enough, the content of the farm bill draft leaves much to be desired. The meat and potatoes of the bill—roughly 80 percent of the funding—is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food benefits to low-income individuals and families. The draft seeks to “fix” SNAP, a program that is not broken, by mandating new work requirements for its recipients. All able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 would be required to work or be enrolled in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week beginning in 2021, increasing to 25 hours per week in 2026.

    But studies show that the SNAP recipients who can work do in fact work. Work requirements will do nothing but snatch away a lifeline from those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Rather than targeting welfare programs like SNAP, our communities would be far better off if we invested in livable wages.

    Beyond the SNAP changes, it’s disheartening to see mandatory funding completely stripped from important local and regional food programs: Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Energy for America Program, the list goes on. That means those programs will be at the mercy of the volatile annual appropriations process and could be eliminated altogether. The Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which helps farmers afford organic certification expenses, would not be reauthorized at all. Though they’re the smallest of the small funding-wise, these programs provide vital support to the local food economy and they’ve been game-changers to the farmers they’ve helped.

    The bill’s proposed cuts to conservation programs would also be detrimental to farmers. Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s major working lands conservation programs would be reduced by about $5 billion over 10 years. At a time when farmers are dealing with unpredictable weather patterns that exacerbate the inherent risk of farming, this is foolish and short-sighted. What’s more, net farm income has dropped about 50 percent in the last four years. We should be moving programs that support sustainable agriculture forward, not backward, especially as farmers grapple with this struggling farm economy.

    There are a few glimmers of hope in the farm bill draft. There’s an increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which allows SNAP recipients to double their benefits when buying fruits and vegetables. A new Food Waste and Recovery Liaison position would be established at the USDA. The National Organic Program’s authority would be expanded to address the growing concern about fraudulent import. And organic research would receive more, although not sufficient, funding. These are all provisions I’ve worked hard to drum up support for over the last year.

    But those provisions don’t change the fact that the changes to SNAP will result in people losing food assistance benefits, or the fact that programs supporting sustainable agriculture could disappear if this draft passes.

    This farm bill has a long road ahead. Even if the current draft makes it out of the House Agriculture Committee this week, its fate on the House floor is uncertain. It needs 218 votes to pass the House floor and, even then, the Senate has already pledged to work on a bipartisan bill that will be seemingly less controversial.

    My hope is that this draft doesn’t see the light of day, and that we focus instead on extending existing programs before the current farm bill expires on September 30 so that there is no lapse in funding.

    Our communities deserve a better farm bill—one that helps to alleviate hunger, promotes growing agricultural markets, and encourages environmental stewardship.

  • Maine Bill to Help LIFT Families out of Poverty Becomes Law

    By Ramona du Houx

     “This bill removes some of the barriers I’ve faced making life work as I go back to school, juggle family obligations and chart my path for a new career in a changing economy,” said Flavia Oliveira, a Waterville mother of four who testified in support of the bill. “It will help me and many like me who just want a chance to succeed.” 

    LD 1774, An Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families for Tomorrow (LIFT), became law on April 14, 2018 without the governor’s signature.

    “Families need a fair shot to get ahead in this economy, and we know that education and training are the surest ways to get that,” said Joby Thoyalil, policy analyst for Maine Equal Justice Partners. “We also know that when low income parents go back to school, they often face significant barriers to completing their education — this bill will help knock down those barriers.”

    LIFT uses evidence-based and cost-effective strategies to provide support for parents living in poverty so that they can acquire the skills and tools they need to be successful.

    Both the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate enacted the bill ‘under the hammer’ early this month with broad bi-partisan support.

    “This legislation is squarely aimed at ensuring that every Mainer can provide for their families. When people can make ends meet, it helps families while growing the economy. At the same time, it will increase the numbers of higher skilled workers badly needed by Maine’s employers and our economy," said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, sponser of the bill.

    The new law will utilize available federal funds to create the Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) program, increasing access to programs that provide industry-recognized credentials and degrees to eligible parents. 

    LIFT will: 

    • Leverage federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds already available to Maine to help low-wage parents successfully achieve associate degrees or industry-recognized post-secondary credentials leading to jobs in any field that has at least an average job outlook as determined by the Department of Labor;
    • Help low-wage parents successfully achieve bachelor’s degrees leading to jobs in the health care, technology or engineering fields;
    • Guarantee that all HOPE participants will have access to wrap-around support services, such as child care and transportation, to help them succeed in their education programs; and
    • Provide increased capacity for educational institutions to provide navigators that will work one-on-one with program participants helping them to overcome obstacles that threaten their educational goals.

    The final version of the bill was a successful bipartisan compromise that garnered strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature. Addressing child poverty should be everyone’s goal and this new law is an example of what can be accomplished when politics are put aside, and lawmakers work collectively toward that goal. 

    Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to health care.

     

  • Maine’s Growing Hunger - Farm Bill needs to add to SNAP not take away

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    The federal Farm Bill (H.R. 2) that would increase hunger and hardship in Maine and throughout the nation by cutting the effective anti-hunger Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.

    Maine’s failed experience with similar policies increased hunger in the state, hurting children. Maine now has the 7th highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, dropping from previous year’s ranking even as other states are making progress in alleviating hunger.  

    The Farm Bill is expected to be marked up on Wednesday, April 16, 2018.

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll only make it harder for parents, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers and people temporarily in between jobs to get enough to eat. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry,” said Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP) .

    US Rep. Bruce Poliquin has pushed for including some of the harshest provisions in this bill, such as unrealistic work requirements modeled after Maine’s own failed policies.  

    In a statement last week, Poliquin mischaracterized the real experience of Maine following the institution in 2015 of similar policies under the LePage administration.  Data reveal a starkly different picture of how harmful and ineffective these proposals actually are. 

     MEJP urges Poliquin to take an honest look at Maine’s real experience with these SNAP benefit restrictions. 

    “Maine is absolutely a cautionary tale for the nation because we have already seen that people in our state lost food assistance by the thousands and most didn’t find work,” said Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice. “Instead, they were left with empty dinner plates and no wages. The promise of how these policies will work and story of what really happened to Maine people are vastly different.”

    MEJP recently published a report, which shows that in the one year period following implementation of this policy, only 4 percent more of the 6,866 people who lost their SNAP benefits for failing to meet the work requirements found jobs (30 percent compared with 34 percent). Even this small gain was likely due to the improving economy. At the end of the year, 66 percent of these individuals remained unemployed, but were also without needed food assistance.

    “Beyond the data, the stories we’ve heard from Mainers who have run up against this complex system tell us that more restrictions in SNAP just add more layers of red tape and bureaucracy. We should be helping to make these programs work better for all of us – not adding hoops to jump through for people who have fallen on hard times," said Robyn Merrill, MEJP’s executive director. 

    The Farm Bill is historically a bipartisan piece of legislation, which addresses hunger and supports farms and rural communities, but the radical changes to SNAP in H.R. 2 threaten to derail bipartisan cooperation and prospects for passage.   

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll only make it harder for parents, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers and people temporarily in between jobs to get enough to eat. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry.”

  • Maine Organizations Urged to Apply for USDA Technology Grants to Expand Access to Health Care and Education in Rural Areas

    Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett has announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to use broadband e-Connectivity to improve access to health care and educational services in rural communities.

    “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is tackling e-Connectivity as a foundational issue for rural communities because it affects everything from business opportunities to adequate health care access,” Hazlett said. “These grants are one of many tools USDA provides to help ensure that people who live and work in rural areas can use broadband to gain access to essential services and economic opportunities.”  USDA Rural Development State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said.

    “This critical funding can help put the tools in the hands of healthcare and educational institutes so they can make a real difference in the lives of rural Maine citizens who struggle with opioid addiction- through telemedicine equipment for treatment, recovery, and adult education. In addition, the grants can be used to help our schools incorporate STEM curricula into the learning experience, preparing Maine’s youth for bright and promising futures.”

    USDA is awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. Grants can finance projects such as those to provide job training, academic instruction or access to specialized medical care.

    Proposals for projects whose primary purpose is to provide opioid prevention, treatment and recovery will receive 10 priority points when applications are scored. USDA is approaching the opioid misuse crisis with a dedicated urgency because it impacts the quality of life, economic opportunity and rural prosperity.

    USDA also will provide priority points for grants that offer access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses.     

    Grants are available to most state and local governmental entities, federally recognized tribes, nonprofit groups, for-profit businesses or a consortia of these.  

    The application deadline is June 4, 2018. Applications can be submitted via paper or electronically. For details on how to apply, see page 14245 of the April 3 Federal Register.

    A recent example of a Maine project is MaineHealth, in Portland, which received a grant in the amount of $398,692. Rural Development funds were used to install telehealth videoconferencing carts at six rural medical clinics in rural Maine.  This project helps to provide healthcare to those in rural communities and prevent the need for lengthy travel for healthcare consultations.

    For more information, please contact Robert Nadeau, Community Programs Director at (207) 990-9121 or Robert.nadeau@me.usda.gov.

       

  • Help women veterans and their families live at the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope

     

    By Gordon Spinney, member of the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope Board of Directors

    Not many people are aware that Augusta has one of six nationwide transitional living homes for women veterans and their children. But we do—The Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope, which opened in the fall of 2017 and currently houses five veterans and one child with room for up to three more veterans.

    Homeless women veterans are growing more than any other group of homeless people in America. 

    While there are numerous programs offered by the federal Veteran’s Administration finding which VA program might be best is the challenge most veterans face daily. The Betsy Ann Ross House helps women veterans navigate VA programs, connecting them with the services they need. In addition, some women may find it intimidating to speak up for their needs within a system traditionally geared towards men. The Betsy Ann Ross House helps them there too.

    Being part of a military family I’ve heard firsthand stories about challenges women face in the military and in acclimating to civilian life outside of their service. Any veteran is susceptible to certain challenges when transitioning from a combat zone to everyday life, but those are often compounded for women. If you do a couple of quick internet searches, you'll see that females face a much higher rate of sexual assault and harassment in the military as compared to the general public. Such trauma only worsens the already difficult transitions one must make in a military lifestyle. While there are many good programs out there for veteran’s needs, including housing, they are often ill equipped to deal with women who are victims of abuse.

    The need for services the Betsy Ann Ross House offers is great.

    There is proposed legislation that would help fund the House, giving the sanctuary hope to share with others. Contact your State Representative and Senator. Let them know that YOU care about these women veterans and their families. After all they’ve given a piece of their lives for our freedoms, it’s time we support them. 

    Please do your part to ensure that these services are available to our brave female veteran’s who need it and donate here: betsyannrosshouseofhope.com.


  • Legislation to amend Pharmacy Board Rules concerning Narcan Distribution goes to Maine Governor to sign

     By Ramona du Houx

     An Act To Clarify the Prescribing and Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists is headed to Governor LePage’s desk after it passed unanimously in the Senate. Earlier in the week it passed the House with a strong, bipartisan vote of 132-7.

    The bill will allow for people under the age of 21 to have access to the life-saving drug Narcan. The governor has 10 days in which to take action, by either signing, vetoing or letting go into law without his signature.

    “Overdoses can strike anyone at any time and in every opportunity, we should be trying to save every life possible. My colleagues in the legislature are well aware of this,” said Speaker Gideon. “While the hold-up of narcan dispensation has been beyond frustrating, I want to thank them for advancing this piece of legislation. We can no longer ignore the impact of this epidemic, disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment and clearly, we can no longer delay access to life-saving medicine. I urge the governor to take immediate action.”

    In March of 2018, after an unexplained six-month delay, the Board of Pharmacy finally took action on proposed rules related to the original legislation, LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists. However, due to a last-minute request by Governor LePage, the Board amended the proposed rules to raise the age the anti-overdose drug could be dispensed to 21, from 18 as originally written. Gideon immediately began working on legislation to override this action. 

    The Board of Pharmacy’s public comment period on the rule change closes April 15, 2018. A public hearing on the change was held April 5, with many speaking against the over-21 restriction including the Health Equity Alliance, the Maine Medical Association and number of certified drug and rehabilitation experts. In addition, members of the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee, the Opioid Task Force and Preble Street Resource Center all submitted written comment in favor of lowering the age of dispensation. 

    “This legislation seeks to redress the previous actions, which had no basis in medical research or expert opinion and directly contradicted legislative intent,” said Gideon. “To truly start combatting this epidemic, we need cooperation and leadership from all branches of government, including the Executive Branch. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on this crisis.”

    BACKGROUND ON PHARMACY DISTRIBUTION OF NALOXONE

    Lawmakers initially approved making naloxone available without a prescription in April 2016 (LD 1547, An Act To Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride). At the request of the Board of Pharmacy, the Legislature clarified the language with an amended bill with the intent that dispensation would begin soon after rulemaking. LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists, was passed by the Legislature in May of 2017.

    The Maine Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously August 3, 2017 to approve rules related to LD 1594. For six months, the rules were stuck in uncertainty due a lack of action from the Executive Branch. Speaker Gideon issued a joint letter with Senator Troy Jackson urging the Board to take action on January 27, 2018. In February 2018, the rules were finally published and a period of public comment began that will close April 15, 2018.

  • Maine Legislation would discourage misuse of personal information on internet

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine House, photo above, voted April 13, 2018 to strengthen internet privacy and review the state’s legal authority to restore net neutrality to Maine. The bipartisan vote was 82-63.

    LD 1610, co-sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows, and Rep. Seth Berry ensures that the state will not do business with internet service providers who misuse users’ personal data and asks the Maine Attorney General’s office to review the state’s authority to address net neutrality under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

    It prohibits an internet service provider that does business with or receives funding from the state from using, disclosing, selling or permitting access to customer personal information unless they expressly agree to those actions.

     “Maine shouldn’t be doing business with companies who misuse our personal information or who reserve the right to choke off free and open access to the internet,” said Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the committee and a sponsor of the bill. “This bill is an important way for Maine to stand up to the big telecommunications companies and demand that they act in the public interest.”

    In December of 2017, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission repealed internet or net neutrality rules that were adopted in 2015. That repeal is scheduled to take effect April 23.

    Net neutrality is the notion that all data should be treated equally, regardless of what the data contains, where it originates or what its destination is.

    “Think of your relationship to your phone company. The phone company lets you call anyone anywhere in the world, but we have laws in place that prohibit it from recording what you say and selling that information to the highest bidder,” said Rep. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, a member of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “We should have the same rules for your internet service provider, ensuring that the personal information that you have to transmit over the internet cannot be skimmed off and sold without your knowledge. Maine should not be spending any tax dollars on companies who break those rules.”

    The vote on the proposed law, which the Legislature first took up in 2017, comes on the heels of the latest in a string of internet privacy breaches. Last month, news outlets reported that a whistleblower at the embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica alleged that the company misused data it acquired through Facebook to influence election results in the U.S. 

    Rep. Berry represents House District 55. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.   Sen. Shenna Bellows is serving her first term in teh Maine State Senate, she previously ran for US Senate.

  • H.O.U.S.E. opioid legislation receives initial support in Maine House

    by ramona du Houx

    Rep. Drew Gattine’s emergency legislation responding to the opioid crisis, LD 1711, Resolve, To Save Lives by Establishing a Homeless Opioid Users Service Engagement Pilot Project (H.O.U.S.E.) received initial support in the Maine House of Representatives on April 9, 2018.

    The vote was 94 - 52.

    The legislation will provide treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery for opioid users who are among the most vulnerable in Maine.

    “We have received absolutely appalling and horrific news - in 2017 we lost 418 Mainers to the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Gattine. “This crisis is only intensifying and it clear that our response is woefully inadequate. While I appreciate the initial support of this legislation from my colleagues and I will be doing everything I can to see it passed, I hope it is only the beginning of serious action.”

    H.O.U.S.E. is a pilot project that provides low-barrier treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery and create stability for 50 opioid users who are among the most vulnerable and unstable in Maine (homeless, uninsured, underinsured, unemployed polysubstance users) and are among the highest utilizers of inpatient hospital services and criminal justice system.

    Homeless individuals will have access to a “medication first” system of low-barrier Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and rapid housing with a creative menu of options to best meet the individual’s need and ensure paths to recovery. 

    “The stress this epidemic is putting on treatment resources, and on law enforcement and on every aspect of our social fabric is crippling,” said Gattine. “We need to increase access to treatment. We need to meet people where they are. To do anything less is a death sentence.”

    The legislation was one of the specific unanimous recommendations of the Opioid Task Force.

    Recommendations put forward by the Task Force include improved youth prevention programs, better prevention of prescription drug diversion, access and awareness of affordable treatment options, expanded specialty courts and pre-diversion programs among more than a dozen other areas of focus.

    The measure, LD 1711, faces further votes in Senate. Gattine, chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House.

  • Female veterans need lawmakers to support the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Maine

    The Augusta organization helps female veterans in dire straits, but is running out of money.

    Here in Maine the Legislature has an opportunity to fill one of these gaps by passing L.D. 792, “An Act to Authorize Funding for Transitional Housing for Women Veterans and Their Families”.

    This bill would give a one-time, $150,000 appropriation to the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope (BARHH) in Augusta — a transitional home for in-need or homeless female veterans and their children. While many factors may contribute to female veteran homelessness, these veterans face unique challenges that may increase their vulnerability to homelessness. Privacy and safety concerns, lack of accessible and affordable child care, and barriers to employment all contribute to our veteran homelessness problem. For some female veterans with dependent children, asking for help isn’t an option out of fear of losing their kids.

    All too often we hear of female veterans “couch surfing” with family or friends in hopes of staying out of “the system.” It isn’t unusual for women to stay in an abusive relationship just to keep a roof over their heads. While it’s difficult to identify each and every homeless female veteran, we know Maine has a problem — a problem made evident by BARHH reaching occupancy limits since opening last fall.

    Some veterans find us via word of mouth, while others are referred by various agencies. By simply asking the question, “Have you ever served in the military?” organizations around the state have assisted us in reaching more female veterans.

    Far too many female veterans do not self-identify as such, nor do they know they are eligible for benefits. For those who qualify, the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope is designed to give female veterans a safe place to live with their children while receiving job training, education assistance, physical and mental healthcare, and financial counseling. Many of those who have turned to the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope are suffering from military sexual trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The House is a haven for them and their children as they work through the difficult process of recovery. But the only way to ensure our veterans get the assistance they need, is if we appropriate this vital and necessary funding to keep it going.

    It’s a common misconception that federal dollars are allotted for these types of programs, but that is simply not the case. It’s an unfortunate reality that not all veterans are awarded benefits through the VA system. Factors such as length of service and character of discharge contribute to a veteran’s eligibility, which leave some veterans out in the cold.

    Thus far, all money used to purchase, refurbish, and furnish the home has been donated entirely by local people, charities, veterans groups, and a few grants. We have been responsible stewards of the money generously donated to us, but the coffers are getting dangerously low.

    The $150,000 proposed in L.D. 792 would pay for additional work on the house to make room for three more veterans and their kids, plus one year of operating costs for the house. We can only sell so many flowers and have so many spaghetti dinners to make this program work. The proposed funds will give the volunteer board of directors an opportunity to apply for more grants and research more long-term funding streams while still providing services.

    Without legislative assistance, the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope may not survive, forcing veterans and their children back on the streets. The Legislature needs to act in the next two weeks in order to fill the funding gap. There is a large surplus in the current budget, and while there are many programs the Legislature would like to fund, none are more important than female veterans and their children.

    In the future, we also recommend the Legislature enact a mechanism for a state grant program that has the flexibility to offer gap funding to programs like the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope.

    Yes, the federal government should be taking care of our veterans better, but when they don’t, the state should be willing and able to step in and do the right thing for the right reason.

  • Maine State Rep. Golden’s bill to help prevent youth suicide becomes law

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    A bill sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, to require public schools to adopt protocols to prevent youth suicide became law on April 3, 2018. It had earlier passed both the Maine House and the Senate unanimously.

    The idea for the bill was brought to Rep. Golden by Matt Graham, who lost a daughter, Anie, to suicide in May 2017. 

    “I am grateful that the Legislature saw the importance of this bill,” Graham said. “I am hopeful that this will help schools deal with at-risk kids and lower the incidence of teen suicide.”

    The bill, LD 1694, requires the state Department of Education to develop rules mandating that school districts adopt suicide prevention protocols based on the most up-to-date best practices. Current rules recommend that schools have these protocols, but only about 25 percent of school districts have done so. The law will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

    “I am proud to work with the Graham family on this important legislation as we continue to try to prevent youth suicide,” said Golden D-Lewiston. “We need to continue to update our practices and policies to make sure we are doing all we can to reduce these tragedies.”

    Rep. Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He is also running for Congress in the 2nd District and faces a primary this June.

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